“I remember, Melody,” Ted said. “Not as often as you do, but I remember. You don’t ever let any of us forget it, do you? But let it pass. What do you want this time?” His tone was flat and cold.
Hello and welcome to the book club. Like each book club story on this blog, the reading and commenting is done at your own pace. Per usual, I have made a few bullet-point notes along the way that demonstrate how some aspects are being translated into A Song of Ice and Fire. These notes are not absolute of all details or secondary ASOIAF characters, just the major beats. Feel free to use these notes as a starting point for conversation, or skip them entirely, up to you. Have fun and enjoy!
I have started transcribing the older stories of George R.R. Martin to be able to share my notes and works with anyone interested or may not have access to some of the more rare material. The full list of GRRM stories outside of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read can be found on this page here. I await to hear the feedback and discussion in the comments section.
What’s it all about?
Love story or revenge… or both? This is one of George R.R. Martin’s shorter stories (approx 6776 words), and one perfect for the haunted season! It should come as a pleasant treat to discover the many common GRRM themes we read in the A Song of Ice and Fire series got their start in all of Martin’s earlier works, including this 1981 story that puts fire against ice.
To paraphrase GRRM, these are the songs the dead men sing!
GRRM notes about the story:
- “Remembering Melody,” some three years later, was my first contemporary horror story. Lisa Tuttle gets the blame for this one. When we were starting work on “The Fall” in 1979, I flew down to Austin for a few weeks to consult with her in person, and get the novella started. We took turns at her typewriter. While she was pounding on the keys I would sit around reading carbons of her latest stories. Lisa was turning out a lot of contemporary horror by then, some wonderfully creepy tales that gave me the urge to try something along those lines myself. “Remembering Melody” was the story that resulted. My agent tried (and failed) to place it with some of the big, high-paying men’s slicks, but Twilight Zone magazine was glad to snap it up, and it appeared in the April 1981 issue. Hollywood has had a love affair with horror fiction that goes back as far as Murnau’s Nosferatu in the days of silent film, so it should come as no surprise that three of the six stories in this section have had film or television versions. “Remembering Melody” was not only the first of my works to go before a camera, it remains the only one to be filmed twice—first as a short student film (full of short student actors), then later as an episode of the HBO anthology series The Hitchhiker.
Quick Note: The HBO version that aired on the series The Hitchhiker was a close match in some aspects, but mostly very off target from the characterizations that are developed in this short story. The most drastic change from book to screen is the interaction between Ted, Jill, and the character Melody. The show turned it in to some oddball, jealousy filled catfight for absolutely zero reason whatsoever. Maybe this should not surprise me by now as any GRRM story I have seen go from page to screen is always a twisted mess by story’s end. The only official credit to GRRM for this episode is as the originator of the short story.
I will say that this episode was the first time that we get a classic George R.R. Martin “fire woman” come to life on the screen, decades before Daenerys, Cersei, Melisandre, the Others, and Catelyn, and she came to us in a song.
Remembering Melody by George R. R. Martin
Ted was shaving when the doorbell sounded. It startled him so badly that he cut himself. His condominium was on the thirty-second floor, and Jack the doorman generally gave him advance warning of any prospective visitors. This had to be someone from the building, then. Except that Ted didn’t know anyone in the building, at least not beyond the trade-smiles-in-the-elevator level.
“Coming,” he shouted. Scowling, he snatched up a towel and wiped the lather from his face, then dabbed at his cut with a tissue. “Shit,” he said loudly to his face in the mirror. He had to be in court this afternoon. If this was another Jehovah’s Witness like the one who’d gotten past Jack last month, they were going to be in for a very rough time indeed.
- Having an overly religious figure on the boat/in the plot is the fastest way to show the ship is about to sink. Melisandre is that overly religious figure at the wall, just as GRRM makes explicitly clear in Fevre Dream:“This associate must have other qualities as well. He must be discreet, as I do not wish to have my behavior—which I admit to be sometimes peculiar—become the talk of the levee. He must be trustworthy, since I will give all management over into his hands. He must have courage. I do not want a weakling, or a superstitious man, or one who is overly religious. Are you a religious man, Captain?”“No,” said Marsh. “Never cared for bible-thumpers, nor them for me.” York smiled.
A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI: The Old Pomegranate touched his scar. He had gotten it defending the Bridge of Skulls the last time the Weeping Man had tried to cut his way across the Gorge. “Surely the lord commander cannot mean to allow that … that demon through as well?”
“Not gladly.” Jon had not forgotten the heads the Weeping Man had left him, with bloody holes where their eyes had been. Black Jack Bulwer, Hairy Hal, Garth Greyfeather. I cannot avenge them, but I will not forget their names.
- Going to court is akin to Jon going to see Queen Selyse after reading the pink letter, but just before the mutiny attempt that got blood on the mirror/wall. A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII: “Har! A task I’m well suited for, crow. On your way!”
Horse and Rory fell in beside Jon as he left the Shieldhall. I should talk with Melisandre after I see the queen, he thought. If she could see a raven in a storm, she can find Ramsay Snow for me. Then he heard the shouting … and a roar so loud it seemed to shake the Wall. “That come from Hardin’s Tower, m’lord,” Horse reported. He might have said more, but the scream cut him off.
Val, was Jon’s first thought. But that was no woman’s scream. That is a man in mortal agony. He broke into a run. Horse and Rory raced after him. “Is it wights?” asked Rory. Jon wondered. Could his corpses have escaped their chains?
The buzzer sounded again. “Coming, dammit,” Ted yelled. He made a final dab at the blood on his neck, then threw the tissue into the wastebasket and strode across the sunken living room to the door. He peered through the eyehole carefully before he opened. “Oh, hell,” he muttered. Before she could buzz again, Ted slid off the chain and threw open the door. “Hello, Melody,” he said.
- So very much to unpack in this set up that there is no way I can do it all here and still have this be a readable page, but to narrow it down, this is all a set up for a situation like we have in ASOIAF where Jon’s (king’s) blood was spilled on the largest mirror in Westeros, therefore calling the Other (the skinner à la The Skin Trade, Damon Julian from Fevre Dream, etc), and Melisandre was most likely part of the fiery scheme even if she doesn’t know yet.
- The multiple buzzers are like the horns blasts the Night’s Watch sounds when the Others are attacking.
- Tormund, The Horned Lord of Winter (as in Jon Snow, King of Winter), sounds a horn two times and asks for a third during the fiery mutiny attempt on Jon’s life. Just as with this story, this means the Others are here.
- What happens when you get blood on the mirror? The Skin Trade:“It was a pity about Zoe, but once the skinner has been summoned, it keeps hunting until it takes a skin, from mirror to mirror to mirror. It knows our scent, but it doesn’t like to wander far from its gates…”
- The idea that the Great Other type comes from blood as sacrifice at a gate comes from Saagael and Corlos in the early Martin story Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark.
She smiled wanly. “Hi, Ted,” she replied. She had an old suitcase in her hand, a battered cloth bag with a hideous red-and-black plaid pattern, its broken handle replaced by a length of rope. The last time Ted had seen her, three years before, she’d looked terrible. Now she looked worse. Her clothes—shorts and a tie-dyed T-shirt—were wrinkled and dirty, and emphasized how gaunt she’d become. Her ribs showed through plainly; her legs were pipestems. Her long stringy blond hair hadn’t been washed recently, and her face was red and puffy, as if she’d been crying. That was no surprise. Melody was
always crying about one thing or another.
“Aren’t you going to ask me in, Ted?”
Ted grimaced. He certainly didn’t want to ask her in. He knew from past experience how difficult it was to get her out again. But he couldn’t just leave her standing in the hall with her suitcase in hand. After all, he thought sourly, she was an old and dear friend. “Oh, sure,” he said. He gestured. “Come on in.”
- I’ve noticed in ASOIAF that term “old friend” is most often associated with dragons- human or animal. A Search of Ice and Fire for old friend, or more precisely, old friend dragon shows the many examples.
- Melody is invited in, just as Jafer Flowers are Othor are when they died north of the wall, but reanimated south of the wall. They were carried, or invited, in through the wall, circumventing the magic within. A type of override, like another GRRM story describes. That story deals with the dead being reanimated and is titled Override. We will see an override again in ASOIAF.
He took her bag from her and set it by the door, then led her into the kitchen and put on some water to boil. “You look as though you could use a cup of coffee,” he said, trying to keep his voice friendly.
Melody smiled again. “Don’t you remember, Ted? I don’t drink coffee. It’s no good for you, Ted. I used to tell you that. Don’t you remember?” She got up from the kitchen table and began rummaging through his cupboards. “Do you have any hot chocolate?” she asked. “I like hot chocolate.”
- Another bad omen is drinking bittersweet chocolate. From Nightflyers:Royd’s luminescent ghost sat close to d’Branin in the darkened lounge, watching him drink bittersweet chocolate. The others were all asleep. Night and day are meaningless on a starship, but the Nightflyer kept the usual cycles and most of the passengers followed them.
“I don’t drink hot chocolate,” he said. “Just a lot of coffee.”
“You shouldn’t,” she said. “It’s no good for you.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Do you want juice? I’ve got juice.”
Melody nodded. “Fine.”
He poured her a glass of orange juice and led her back to the table, then spooned some Maxim into a mug while he waited for his kettle to whistle. “So,” he asked, “what brings you to Chicago?”
Melody began to cry. Ted leaned back against the stove and watched her. She was a very noisy crier, and she produced an amazing amount of tears for someone who cried so often. She didn’t look up until the water began to boil. Ted poured some into his cup and stirred in a teaspoon of sugar. Her face was redder and puffier than ever. Her eyes fixed on him accusingly. “Things have been real bad,” she said. “I need help, Ted. I don’t have anyplace to live. I thought maybe I could stay with you awhile. Things have been real bad.”
- I have noticed many situations that put the Weeper on the side of the Other-dragon, especially in A Dance with Dragons. Most of those occurrences happen within a Melisandre chapter as well and involve “gods”, Ghost, the Weeper, and heads “floating” above ash; all acts of fire. Noted plenty in this thread here.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Melody,” Ted replied, sipping at his coffee thoughtfully. “You can stay here for a few days, if you want. But no longer. I’m not in the market for a roommate.” She always made him feel like such a bastard, but it was better to be firm with her right from the start.
- Ted doesn’t want Melody as a roommate, just as Jon does not want bearded-fire-dragon Queen Selyse and Melisandre at Castle Black. Read here.
- Bastard. Not Melisandre related this time, but Catelyn related; the other fiery woman.
- A Clash of Kings – Prologue: “Clever bird, clever man, clever clever fool,” said Patchface, jangling. “Oh, clever clever clever fool.” He began to sing. “The shadows come to dance, my lord, dance my lord, dance my lord,” he sang, hopping from one foot to the other and back again. “The shadows come to stay, my lord, stay my lord, stay my lord.” He jerked his head with each word, the bells in his antlers sending up a clangor.
Melody began to cry again when he mentioned roommates. “You used to say I was a good
roommate,” she whined. “We used to have fun, don’t you remember? You were my friend.”
Ted set down his coffee mug and looked at the kitchen clock. “I don’t have time to talk about old times right now,” he said. “I was shaving when you rang. I’ve got to get to the office.” He frowned. “Drink your juice and make yourself at home. I’ve got to get dressed.” He turned abruptly and left her weeping at the kitchen table. Back in the bathroom, Ted finished shaving and tended to his cut more properly, his mind full of
Melody. Already he could tell that this was going to be difficult. He felt sorry for her—she was messed up and miserably unhappy, with no one to turn to—but he wasn’t going to let her inflict all her troubles on him. Not this time. She’d done it too many times before.
In his bedroom, Ted stared pensively into the closet for a long time before selecting the gray suit. He knotted his tie carefully in the mirror, scowling at his cut. Then he checked his briefcase to make sure all the papers on the Syndic case were in order, nodded, and walked back into the kitchen.
Melody was at the stove, making pancakes. She turned and smiled at him happily when he entered. “You remember my pancakes, Ted?” she asked. “You used to love it when I made pancakes, especially blueberry pancakes, you remember? You didn’t have any blueberries, though, so I’m just making plain. Is that all right?”
“Jesus,” Ted muttered. “Dammit, Melody, who said you should make anything? I told you I had to get to the office. I don’t have time to eat with you. I’m late already. Anyway, I don’t eat breakfast. I’m trying to lose weight.”
Tears began to trickle from her eyes again. “But—but these are my special pancakes, Ted. What am I going to do with them? What am I going to do?”
- I have no idea why, but Martin loves to put breakfast breads in the hands of the fiery people about to “burn” the ice. It is like a decades long running joke to him:
- A Dance with Dragons– Melisandre I; after Devan asks what Melisandre wants for breakfast, just before Jon joins her in her room: “I will have nettle tea, a boiled egg, and bread with butter. Fresh bread, if you please, not fried. You may find the wildling as well. Tell him that I must speak with him.”
- Armageddon Rag: He forced himself to eat the pancakes and sausages, and turned on a reading lamp to study the Denver papers. Ananda was still asleep, so he kept he curtains shut.
- Armageddon Rag: While he stood there, squinting and frowning, the door behind him opened and Ananda came walking in. “Morning,” she said cheerfully. “Thought I heard you moving around. We’ve got coffee and fresh orange juice, and I make the meanest waffle you ever tasted. Learned at Mommy’s knee. Want to try one?”
- The Glass Flower; Cyrain of Ash and Lilith who is a near 100% Daenerys prototype: I was breaking fast in bed, on butterfruit and raw fish and strong black coffee, with Khar Dorian stretched out languid and insolent beside me, when my scholar Apostle, Alta-k-Nahr, came to me with her report.
“Eat them,” Ted said. “You could use a few extra pounds. Jesus, you look terrible. You look like you haven’t eaten for a month.”
A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I
“Does my lady wish to break her fast?” asked Devan.
Food. Yes, I should eat. Some days she forgot. R’hllor provided her with all the nourishment her body needed, but that was something best concealed from mortal men.
Melody’s face screwed up and became ugly. “You bastard,” she said. “You’re supposed to be my friend.”
Ted sighed. “Take it easy,” he said. He glanced at his watch. Look, I’m fifteen minutes late already. I’ve got to go. You eat your Pancakes and get some sleep. I’ll be back around six. We can have dinner together and talk, all right? Is that what you want?”
“That would be nice,” she said, suddenly contrite. “That would be real nice.”
“Tell Jill I want to see her in my office, right away,” Ted snapped to the secretary when he arrived. “And get us some coffee, will you? I really need some coffee.”
Jill arrived a few minutes after the coffee. She and Ted were associates in the same law firm. He motioned her to a seat and pushed a cup at her. “Sit down,” he said. “Look, the date’s off tonight. I’ve got problems.”
“You look it,” she said. “What’s wrong?”
“An old friend showed up on my doorstep this morning.”
Jill arched one elegant eyebrow. “So?” she said. “Reunions can be fun.”
“Not with Melody they can’t.”
“Melody?” she said. “A pretty name. An old flame, Ted? What is it, unrequited love?”
- Ghost was tricked by Mel using a spell-song and powders/spicy scents: A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI:
“Yes, but …”
“Ghost.” Melisandre made the word a song.
The direwolf padded toward her. Wary, he stalked about her in a circle, sniffing. When she held out her hand he smelled that too, then shoved his nose against her fingers.
“No,” he said, “no, it wasn’t like that.”
“Tell me what it was like, then. You know I love the gory details.”
- Bran loves the scary stories Old Nan tells. A few examples:
“He was a wildling,” Bran said. “They carry off women and sell them to the Others.”
His lord father smiled. “Old Nan has been telling you stories again.
- Old Nan told scary stories of beastlings and shapechangers sometimes. In the stories they were always evil. “I’m not like that,” Bran said. “I’m not. It’s only dreams.”
“Melody and I were roommates back in college. Not just us— don’t get the wrong idea. There were four of us. Me and a guy named Michael Englehart, Melody and another girl, Anne Kaye. The four of us shared a big run-down house for two years. We were—friends.”
“Friends?” Jill looked skeptical.
Ted scowled at her. “Friends,” he repeated. “Oh, hell, I slept with Melody a few times. With Anne, too. And both of them balled Michael a time or two. But when it happened, it was just kind of— kind of friendly, you know? Our love lives were mostly with outsiders. We used to tell each other our troubles, swap advice, cry on one another’s shoulders. Hell, I know it sounds weird. It was 1970, though. I had hair down to my ass. Everything was weird.” He sloshed the dregs of his coffee around in the cup and looked pensive. “They were good times, too. Special times. Sometimes I’m sorry they had to end. The
four of us were close, really close. I loved those people.”
“Watch out,” Jill said, “I’ll get jealous. My roommate and I cordially despised each other.” She smiled. “So what happened?”
Ted shrugged. “The usual story,” he said. “We graduated, drifted apart. I remember the last night in the old house. We smoked a ton of dope and got very silly. Swore eternal friendship. We weren’t ever going to be strangers, no matter what happened, and if any of us ever needed help, well, the other three would always be there. We sealed the bargain with—well, kind of an orgy.”
Jill smiled. “Touching,” she said. “I never dreamed you had it in you.”
“It didn’t last, of course,” Ted continued. “We tried, I’ll give us that much. But things changed too much. I went on to law school, wound up here in Chicago. Michael got a job with a publishing house in New York City. He’s an editor at Random House now, been married and divorced, two kids. We used to write. Now we trade Christmas cards. Anne’s a teacher. She was down in Phoenix the last I heard, but that was four, five years ago. Her husband didn’t like the rest of us much, the one time we had a reunion. I think Anne must have told him about the orgy.”
“And your houseguest?”
“Melody,” he sighed. “She became a problem. In college, she was wonderful: gutsy, pretty, a real free spirit. But afterwards, she couldn’t cut it. She tried to make it as a painter for a couple of years, but she wasn’t good enough. Got nowhere. She went through a couple of relationships that turned sour, then married some guy about a week after she’d met him in a singles bar. That was terrible. He used to get drunk and beat her. She took about six months of it, and finally got a divorce. He still came around to beat her up for a year, until he finally got frightened off. After that, Melody got into drugs—bad. She spent some time in an asylum. When she got out, it was more of the same. She can’t hold a job or stay
away from drugs. Her relationships don’t last more than a few weeks. She’s let her body go to hell.” He shook his head.
Jill pursed her lips. “Sounds like a lady who needs help,” she said.
Ted flushed and grew angry. “You think I don’t know that? You think we haven’t tried to help her? Jesus! When she was trying to be an artist, Michael got her a couple of cover assignments from the paperback house he was with. Not only did she blow the deadlines, but she got into a screaming match with the art director. Almost cost Michael his job. I flew to Cleveland and handled her divorce for her, gratis. Flew back a couple of months later and spent quite a while there trying to get the cops to give her protection against her ex-hubby. Anne took her in when she had no place to live, got her into a drug rehabilitation program. In return, Melody tried to seduce her boyfriend—said she wanted to share him, like they’d done in the old days. All of us have lent her money. She’s never paid back any of it. And we’ve listened to her troubles, God but we’ve listened to her troubles. There was a period a few years ago when she’d phone every week, usually collect, with some new sad story. She cried over the phone a lot. If Queen for a Day was still on TV, Melody would be a natural!”
“I’m beginning to see why you’re not thrilled by her visit,” Jill said dryly. “What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” Ted replied. “I shouldn’t have let her in. The last few times she’s called, I just hung up on her, and that seemed to work pretty well. Felt guilty about it at first, but that passed. This morning, though, she looked so pathetic that I didn’t know how to send her away. I suppose eventually I’ll have to get brutal and go through a scene. Nothing else works. She’ll make a lot of accusations, remind me of what good friends we were and the promises we made, threaten to kill herself. Fun times ahead.”
“Can I help?” Jill asked.
“Pick up my pieces afterwards,” Ted said. “It’s always nice to have someone around afterwards to tell you that you’re not a son-of-a-bitch even though you just kicked an old dear friend out into the gutter.”
- Not sure if this is related, but this statement makes me think of a puzzle, which makes me wonder what will be happening when Alliser Thorne returns as he promised (dun, dun, duunnn). A Game of Thrones – Jon III:
Alliser Thorne overheard him. “Lord Snow wants to take my place now.” He sneered. “I’d have an easier time teaching a wolf to juggle than you will training this aurochs.”
“I’ll take that wager, Ser Alliser,” Jon said. “I’d love to see Ghost juggle.”
He was terrible in court that afternoon. His thoughts were full of Melody, and the strategies that most occupied him concerned how to get rid of her most painlessly, instead of the case at hand. Melody had danced flamenco on his psyche too many times before; Ted wasn’t going to let her leech off him this time, nor leave him an emotional wreck.
When he got back to his condo with a bag of Chinese food under his arm—he’d decided he didn’t want to take her out to a restaurant—Melody was sitting nude in the middle of his conversation pit, giggling and sniffing some white powder. She looked up at Ted happily when he entered. “Here,” she said. “I scored some coke.”
“Jesus,” he swore. He dropped the Chinese food and his briefcase, and strode furiously across the carpet. “I don’t believe you,” he roared. “I’m a lawyer, for Chrissakes. Do you want to get me disbarred?”
Melody had the coke in a little paper square and was sniffing it from a rolled-up dollar bill. Ted snatched it all away from her, and she began to cry. He went to the bathroom and flushed it down the toilet, dollar bill and all. Except it wasn’t a dollar bill, he saw as it was sucked out of sight. It was a twenty. That made him even angrier. When he returned to the living room, Melody was still crying.
“Stop that,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it. And put some clothes on.” Another suspicion came to him. “Where did you get the money for that stuff?” he demanded. “Huh, where?’
A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I
While the boy was gone, Melisandre washed herself and changed her robes. Her sleeves were full of hidden pockets, and she checked them carefully as she did every morning to make certain all her powders were in place. Powders to turn fire green or blue or silver, powders to make a flame roar and hiss and leap up higher than a man is tall, powders to make smoke. A smoke for truth, a smoke for lust, a smoke for fear, and the thick black smoke that could kill a man outright. The red priestess armed herself with a pinch of each of them.
The carved chest that she had brought across the narrow sea was more than three-quarters empty now. And while Melisandre had the knowledge to make more powders, she lacked many rare ingredients. My spells should suffice. She was stronger at the Wall, stronger even than in Asshai. Her every word and gesture was more potent, and she could do things that she had never done before. Such shadows as I bring forth here will be terrible, and no creature of the dark will stand before them. With such sorceries at her command, she should soon have no more need of the feeble tricks of alchemists and pyromancers.
Melody whimpered. “I sold some stuff,” she said in a timid voice. “I didn’t think you’d mind. It was good coke.” She shied away from him and threw an arm across her face, as if Ted was going to hit her.
Ted didn’t need to ask whose stuff she’d sold. He knew; she’d pulled the same trick on Michael years before, or so he’d heard. He sighed. “Get dressed,” he repeated wearily. “I brought Chinese food.” Later he could check what was missing and phone the insurance company.
“Chinese food is no good for you,” Melody said. “It’s full of monosodium glutamate. Gives you headaches, Ted.” But she got to her feet obediently, if a bit unsteadily, went off towards the bathroom, and came back a few minutes later wearing a halter top and a pair of ratty cutoffs. Nothing else, Ted guessed. A couple of years ago she must have decided that underwear was no good for you.
Ignoring her comment about the monosodium glutamate, Ted found some plates and served up the Chinese food in his dining nook. Melody ate it meekly enough, drowning everything in soy sauce. Every few minutes she giggled at some private joke, then grew very serious again and resumed eating. When she broke open her fortune cookie, a wide smile lit her face. “Look, Ted,”‘ she said happily, passing the little slip of paper across to him.
He read it. OLD FRIENDS ARE THE BEST FRIENDS, it said. “Oh, shit,” he muttered. He didn’t even open his own. Melody wanted to know why.
- Prophecy of Azor Ahai reborn.
“You ought to read it, Ted,” she told him. “It’s bad luck if you don’t read your fortune cookie.”
“I don’t want to read it,” he said. “I’m going to change out of this suit.” He rose. “Don’t do anything.”
But when he came back, she’d put an album on the stereo. At least she hadn’t sold that, he thought gratefully.
“Do you want me to dance for you?” she asked. “Remember how I used to dance for you and Michael? Real sexy… You used to tell me how good I danced. I could of been a dancer if I’d wanted.” She did a few dance steps in the middle of his living room, stumbled, and almost fell. It was grotesque.
“Sit down, Melody,” Ted said, as sternly as he could manage. “We have to talk.”
She sat down.
- Dancing isn’t such a good thing in Martinworld.
- The Skin Trade: [Jonathan Harmon]“I do not know, but I can tell you this—in the dark of night, there are things that hunt the hunters.”\[Willie Flambeaux]“Things that hunt the hunters,” Willie repeated. “That’s good, has a nice beat, but can you dance to it?” He’d had enough. He started for the door. “Thanks but no thanks. I’ll take my chances behind my own walls.”\Jonathan Harmon leaned more heavily on his cane. “I can tell you how she was really killed,” he said quietly. Willie stopped and stared into the old man’s eyes. Then he sat back down.
- A Game of Thrones – prologue:
The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.
Ser Waymar met him bravely. “Dance with me then.” He lifted his sword high over his head, defiant. His hands trembled from the weight of it, or perhaps from the cold. Yet in that moment, Will thought, he was a boy no longer, but a man of the Night’s Watch.
“Don’t cry,” he said before he started. “You understand that? I don’t want you to cry. We can’t talk if you’re going to cry every time I say anything. You start crying and this conversation is over.”
Melody nodded. “I won’t cry, Ted,” she said. “I feel much better now than this morning. I’m with you now. You make me feel better.”
“You’re not with me, Melody. Stop that.”
Her eyes filled up with tears. “You’re my friend, Ted. You and Michael and Anne, you’re the special ones.”
He sighed. “What’s wrong, Melody? Why are you here?”
“I lost my job, Ted,” she said.
“The waitress job?” he asked. The last time he’d seen her, three years ago, she’d been waiting tables in a bar in Kansas City.
Melody blinked at him, confused. “Waitress?” she said. “No, Ted. That was before. That was in Kansas City. Don’t you remember?”
“I remember very well,” he said. “What job was it you lost?”
“It was a shitty job,” Melody said. “A factory job. It was in Iowa. In Des Moines. Des Moines is a shitty place. I didn’t come to work, so they fired me. I was strung out, you know? I needed a couple days off. I would have come back to work. But they fired me.” She looked close to tears again. “I haven’t had a good job in a long time, Ted. I was an art major. You remember? You and Michael and Anne used to have my drawings hung up in your rooms. You still have my drawings, Ted?”
“Yes,” he lied. “Sure. Somewhere.” He’d gotten rid of them years ago. They reminded him too much of Melody, and that was too painful.
“Anyway, when I lost my job, Johnny said I wasn’t bringing in any money. Johnny was the guy I lived with. He said he wasn’t gonna support me, that I had to get some job, but I couldn’t. I tried, Ted, but I couldn’t. So Johnny talked to some man, and he got me this job in a massage parlor, you know. And he took me down there, but it was crummy. I didn’t want to work in no massage parlor, Ted. I used to be an art major.”
- Melisandre, and Ananda Cain from Armageddon Rag, both had questionable, slave related, sexual abuse/exploitative origins. Nothing is detailed enough in either story to confirm as of yet, but just enough to evoke empathy from readers.
“I remember, Melody,” Ted said. She seemed to expect him to say something.
Melody nodded. “So I didn’t take it, and Johnny threw me out. I had no place to go, you know. And I thought of you, and Anne, and Michael. Remember the last night? We all said that if anyone ever needed help…”
“I remember, Melody,” Ted said. “Not as often as you do, but I remember. You don’t ever let any of us forget it, do you? But let it pass. What do you want this time?” His tone was flat and cold.
“You’re a lawyer, Ted,” she said.
“So, I thought—” Her long, thin fingers plucked nervously at her face. “I thought maybe you could get me a job. I could be a secretary, maybe. In your office. We could be together again, every day, like it used to be. Or maybe—” She brightened visibly. “—maybe I could be one of those people who draw pictures in the courtroom. You know. Like of Patty Hearst and people like that. On TV. I’d be good at that.”
“Those artists work for the TV stations,” Ted said patiently. “And there are no openings in my office. I’m sorry, Melody. I can’t get you a job.”
Melody took that surprisingly well. “All right, Ted,” she said. “I can find a job, I guess. I’ll get one all by myself. Only—only let me live here, okay? We can be roommates again.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Ted said. He sat back and crossed his arms. “No,” he said flatly.
Melody took her hand away from her face and stared at him imploringly. “Please, Ted,” she whispered. “Please.”
“No,” he said. The word hung there, chill and final.
“You’re my friend, Ted,” she said. “You promised.”
“You can stay here a week,” he said. “No longer. I have my own life, Melody. I have my own problems. I’m tired of dealing with yours. We all are. You’re nothing but problems. In college, you were fun. You’re not fun any longer. I’ve helped you and helped you and helped you. How goddam much do you want out of me?” He was getting angrier as he talked. “Things change, Melody,” he said brutally. “People change. You can’t hold me forever to some dumb promise I made when I was stoned out of my mind back in college. I’m not responsible for your life. Tough up, dammit. Pull yourself together. I can’t
do it for you, and I’m sick of all your shit. I don’t even like to see you anymore, Melody, you know that?”
She whimpered. “Don’t say that, Ted. We’re friends. You’re special. As long as I have you and Michael and Anne, I’ll never be alone, don’t you see?”
“You are alone,” he said. Melody infuriated him.
“No, I’m not,” she insisted. “I have my friends, my special friends. They’ll help me. You’re my friend, Ted.”
“I used to be your friend,” he replied.
- Stannis is, in many ways, an extended aspect of Jon. Stannis is moving away from the flames and becoming less influenced by Mel’s spells, just as the Jaenshi show change as they move away from the presence of the (fiery) pyramids in ...And Seven Times Never Kill Man. Neither Jon nor Stannis will chose fire in the end, but the trees.
She stared at him, her lip trembling, hurt beyond words. For a moment he thought that the dam was going to burst, that Melody was finally about to break down and begin one of her marathon crying jags. Instead, a change came over her face. She paled perceptibly, and her lips drew back slowly, and her expression settled into a terrible mask of anger. She was hideous when she was angry. “You bastard,” she said.
Ted had been this route too. He got up from the couch and walked to his bar. “Don’t start,” he said, pouring himself a glass of Chivas Regal on the rocks. “The first thing you throw, you’re out on your ass. Got that, Melody?”
“You scum,” she repeated. “You were never my friend. None of you were. You lied to me, made me trust you, used me. Now you’re all so high and mighty and I’m nothing, and you don’t want to know me. You don’t want to help me. You never wanted to help me.”
“I did help you,” Ted pointed out. “Several times. You owe me something close to two thousand dollars, I believe.”
“Money,” she said. “That’s all you care about, you bastard.”
Ted sipped at his scotch and frowned at her. “Go to hell,” he said.
“I could, for all you care.” Her face had gone white. “I cabled you, two years ago. I cabled all three of you. I needed you, you promised that you’d come if I needed you, that you’d be there, you promised that and you made love to me and you were my friend, but I cabled you and you didn’t come, you bastard, you didn’t come, none of you came, none of you came.” She was screaming.
Ted had forgotten about the telegram. But it came back to him in a rush. He’d read it over several times, and finally he’d picked up the phone and called Michael. Michael hadn’t been in. So he’d reread the telegram one last time, then crumpled it up and flushed it down the toilet. One of the others could go to her this time, he remembered thinking. He had a big case, the Argrath Corporation patent suit, and he couldn’t risk leaving it. But it had been a desperate telegram, and he’d been guilty about it for weeks, until he finally managed to put the whole thing out of his mind. “I was busy,” he said, his tone half-angry and half-defensive. “I had more important things to do than come hold your hand through another crisis.”
“It was horrible” Melody screamed. “I needed you and you left me all alone. I almost killed myself.”
“But you didn’t, did you?”
“I could have,” she said, “I could have killed myself, and you wouldn’t even of cared.”
Threatening suicide was one of Melody’s favorite tricks. Ted had been through it a hundred times before. This time he decided not to take it. “You could have killed yourself,” he said calmly, “and we probably wouldn’t have cared. I think you’re right about that. You would have rotted for weeks before anyone found you, and we probably wouldn’t even have heard about it for half a year. And when I did hear, finally, I guess it would have made me sad for an hour or two, remembering how things had been, but then I would have gotten drunk or phoned up my girlfriend or something, and pretty soon I’d have been out of it. And then I could have forgotten all about you.”
“You would have been sorry,” Melody said.
“No,” Ted replied. He strolled back to the bar and freshened his drink. “No, you know, I don’t think I would have been sorry. Not in the least. Not guilty, either. So you might as well stop threatening to kill yourself, Melody, because it isn’t going to work.”
The anger drained out of her face, and she gave a little whimper. “Please, Ted,” she said. “Don’t say such things. Tell me you’d care. Tell me you’d remember me.”
He scowled at her. “No,” he said. It was harder when she was pitiful, when she shrunk up all small and vulnerable and whimpered instead of accusing him. But he had to end it once and for all, get rid of this curse on his life.
“I’ll go away tomorrow,” she said meekly. “I won’t bother you. But tell me you care, Ted. That you’re my friend. That you’ll come to me. If I need you.”
A Game of Thrones – Jon VIII
When Jon had been Bran’s age, he had dreamed of doing great deeds, as boys always did. The details of his feats changed with every dreaming, but quite often he imagined saving his father’s life. Afterward Lord Eddard would declare that Jon had proved himself a true Stark, and place Ice in his hand. Even then he had known it was only a child’s folly; no bastard could ever hope to wield a father’s sword. Even the memory shamed him. What kind of man stole his own brother’s birthright? I have no right to this, he thought, no more than to Ice. He twitched his burned fingers, feeling a throb of pain deep under the skin. “My lord, you honor me, but—”
“Spare me your but’s, boy,” Lord Mormont interrupted. “I would not be sitting here were it not for you and that beast of yours. You fought bravely … and more to the point, you thought quickly. Fire! Yes, damn it. We ought to have known. We ought to have remembered. The Long Night has come before. Oh, eight thousand years is a good while, to be sure … yet if the Night’s Watch does not remember, who will?”
“Who will,” chimed the talkative raven. “Who will.”
“I won’t come to you, Melody,” he said. “That’s over. And I don’t want you coming here anymore, or phoning, or sending telegrams, no matter what kind of trouble you’re in. You understand? Do you? I want you out of my life, and when you’re gone I’m going to forget you as quick as I can, ’cause lady, you are one hell of a bad memory.”
Melody cried out as if he had struck her. “No!” she said. “No, don’t say that, remember me, you have to. I’ll leave you alone, I promise I will, I’ll never see you again. But say you’ll remember me.” She stood up abruptly. “I’ll go right now,” she said. “If you want me to, I’ll go. But make love to me first, Ted. Please. I want to give you something to remember me by.” She smiled a lascivious little smile and began to struggle out of her halter top, and Ted felt sick.
He set down his glass with a bang. “You’re crazy,” he said. “You ought to get professional help, Melody. But I can’t give it to you, and I’m not going to put up with this anymore. I’m going out for a walk. I’ll be gone a couple of hours. You be gone when I get back.”
Ted started for the door. Melody stood looking at him, her halter in her hand. Her breasts looked small and shrunken, and the left one had a tattoo on it that he’d never noticed before. There was nothing even vaguely desirable about her. She whimpered. “I just wanted to give you something to remember me by,” she said.
- Carving or marking oneself above the heart is a fiery act, as Stannis’ new personal sigil shows us. It is also shown by way of Drogo’s nipple wound, and Andals (a fiery militant-religious organization that merges with the Targs; A.K.A. Steel Angels in other Martin stories). Carving into a human, as opposed to say a tree, is also a fiery act. See Edan Morse from Armageddon Rag or even Brown Ben Plumm.
Ted slammed the door.
It was midnight when he returned, drunk and surly, resolved that if Melody was still there, he would call the police and that would be the end of that. Jack was behind the desk, having just gone on duty. Ted stopped and gave him hell for having admitted Melody that morning, but the doorman denied it vehemently. “Wasn’t nobody got in, Mr. Cirelli. I don’t let in anyone without buzzing up, you ought to know that. I been here six years, and I never let in nobody without buzzing up.” Ted reminded him forcefully about the Jehovah’s Witness, and they ended up in a shouting match.
Finally Ted stormed away and took the elevator up to the thirty-second floor.
There was a drawing taped to his door.
He blinked at it furiously for a moment, then snatched it down. It was a cartoon, a caricature of Melody. Not the Melody he’d seen today, but the Melody he’d known in college: sharp, funny, pretty. When they’d been roommates, Melody had always illustrated her notes with little cartoons of herself. He was surprised that she could still draw this well. Beneath the face, she’d printed a message.
I LEFT YOU SOMETHING TO REMEMBER ME BY.
Ted scowled down at the cartoon, wondering whether he should keep it or not. His own hesitation made him angry. He crumpled the paper in his hand and fumbled for his keys. At least she’s gone, he thought, and maybe for good. If she left the note, it meant that she’d gone. He was rid of her for another couple of years at least.
He went inside, tossed the crumpled ball of paper across the room towards a wastebasket, and smiled when it went in. “Two points,” he said loudly to himself, drunk and self-satisfied. He went to the bar and began to mix himself a drink.
But something was wrong.
Ted stopped stirring his drink and listened. The water was running, he realized. She’d left the water running in the bathroom.
“Christ,” he said, and then an awful thought hit him: maybe she hadn’t gone after all. Maybe she was still in the bathroom, taking a shower or something, freaked out of her mind, crying, whatever. “Melody!” he shouted.
No answer. The water was running, all right. It couldn’t be anything else. But she didn’t answer.
“Melody, are you still here?” he yelled. “Answer, dammit!”
He put down his drink and walked to the bathroom. The door was closed. Ted stood outside. The water was definitely running. “Melody,” he said loudly, “are you in there? Melody?”
Nothing. Ted was beginning to be afraid.
He reached out and grasped the doorknob. It turned easily in his hand. The door hadn’t been locked.
Inside, the bathroom was filled with steam. He could hardly see, but he made out that the shower curtain was drawn. The shower was running full blast, and judging from the amount of steam, it must be scalding. Ted stepped back and waited for the steam to dissipate. “Melody?” he said softly. There was no reply.
“Shit,” he said. He tried not to be afraid. She only talked about it, he told himself; she’d never really do it. The ones who talk about it never do it, he’d read that somewhere. She was just doing this to frighten him.
He took two quick strides across the room and yanked back the shower curtain.
She was there, wreathed in steam, water streaming down her naked body. She wasn’t stretched out in the tub at all; she was sitting up, crammed in sideways near the faucets, looking very small and pathetic. Her position seemed half-fetal. The needle spray had been directed down at her, at her hands. She’d opened her wrists with his razor blades and tried to hold them under the water, but it hadn’t been enough; she’d slit the veins crosswise, and everybody knew the only way to do it was lengthwise. So she’d used the razor elsewhere, and now she had two mouths, and both of them were smiling at him, smiling. The shower had washed away most of the blood; there were no stains anywhere, but the second mouth below her chin was still red and dripping. Trickles oozed down her chest, over the flower tattooed on her breast, and the spray of the shower caught them and washed them away. Her hair hung down over her cheeks, limp and wet. She was smiling. She looked so happy. The steam was all around her. She’d been in there for hours, he thought. She was very clean.
- Again, cutting up a human is an act of fire, just as when the ship the Fevre Dream begins as a ‘regular’ ship burning good ol’ trees and canned lard then becomes a fire breathing dragon when it is usurped and is changed into Ozymandias and eats not just trees, but humans. And now that we have this Melody limp and wet as well as slashed up, this is a Lady Stoneheart moment.
Ted closed his eyes. It didn’t make any difference. He still saw her. He would always see her. He opened them again; Melody was still smiling. He reached across her and turned off the shower, getting the sleeve of his shirt soaked in the process.
Numb, he fled back into the living room. God, he thought, God. I have to call someone, I have to report this, I can’t deal with this. He decided to call the police. He lifted the phone, and hesitated with his finger poised over the buttons. The police won’t help, he thought. He punched for Jill.
When he had finished telling her, it grew very silent on the other end of the phone. “My God,” she said at last, “how awful. Can I do anything?”
“Come over,” he said. “Right away.” He found the drink he’d set down, took a hurried sip from it.
Jill hesitated. “Er—look, Ted, I’m not very good at dealing with corpses. Why don’t you come over here? I don’t want to—well, you know. I don’t think I’ll ever shower at your place again.”
“Jill,” he said, stricken. “I need someone right now.” He laughed a frightened, uncertain laugh.
“Come over here,” she urged.
“I can’t just leave it there,” he said.
“Well, don’t,” she said. “Call the police. They’ll take it away. Come over afterwards.”
Ted called the police.
“If this is your idea of a joke, it isn’t funny,” the patrolman said. His partner was scowling.
“Joke?” Ted said.
“There’s nothing in your shower,” the patrolman said. “I ought to take you down to the station house.”
“Nothing in the shower?” Ted repeated, incredulous.
“Leave him alone, Sam,” the partner said. “He’s stinko, can’t you tell?”
Ted rushed past them both into the bathroom.
The tub was empty. Empty. He knelt and felt the bottom of it. Dry. Perfectly dry. But his shirt sleeve was still damp. “No,” he said. “No.” He rushed back out to the living room. The two cops watched him with amusement. Her suitcase was gone from its place by the door. The dishes had all been run through the dishwasher—no way to tell if anyone had made pancakes or not. Ted turned the wastebasket upside down, spilling out the contents all over his couch. He began to scrabble through the papers.
“Go to bed and sleep it off, mister,” the older cop said. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”
“C’mon,” his partner said. They departed, leaving Ted still pawing through the papers. No cartoon. No cartoon. No cartoon.
Ted flung the empty wastebasket across the room. It caromed off the wall with a ringing metallic clang.
He took a cab to Jill’s.
It was near dawn when he sat up in bed suddenly, his heart thumping, his mouth dry with fear.
Jill murmured sleepily. “Jill,” he said, shaking her.
She blinked up at him. “What?” she said. “What time is it, Ted? What’s wrong?” She sat up, pulling up the blanket to cover herself.
“Don’t you hear it?”
“Hear what?” she asked.
He giggled. “Your shower is running.”
That morning he shaved in the kitchen, even though there was no mirror. He cut himself twice. His bladder ached, but he would not go past the bathroom door, despite Jill’s repeated assurances that the shower was not running. Dammit, he could hear it. He waited until he got to the office. There was no shower in the washroom there.
But Jill looked at him strangely.
At the office, Ted cleared off his desk, and tried to think. He was a lawyer. He had a good
analytical mind. He tried to reason it out. He drank only coffee, lots of coffee.
No suitcase, he thought. Jack hadn’t seen her. No corpse. No cartoon. No one had seen her. The shower was dry. No dishes. He’d been drinking. But not all day, only later, after dinner. Couldn’t be the drinking. Couldn’t be. No cartoon. He was the only one who’d seen her. No cartoon. I LEFT YOU SOMETHING TO REMEMBER ME BY. He’d crumpled up her cable and flushed her away. Two years ago. Nothing in the shower.
He picked up his phone. “Billie,” he said, “get me a newspaper in Des Moines, Iowa. Any
newspaper, I don’t care.”
When he finally got through, the woman who tended the morgue was reluctant to give him any information. But she softened when he told her he was a lawyer and needed the information for an important case.
The obituary was very short. Melody was identified only as a “massage parlor employee.” She’d killed herself in her shower.
“Thank you,” Ted said. He set down the receiver. For a long time he sat staring out of his window. He had a very good view; he could see the lake and the soaring tower of the Standard Oil building. He pondered what to do next. There was a thick knot of fear in his gut.
He could take the day off and go home. But the shower would be running at home, and sooner or later he would have to go in there.
He could go back to Jill’s. If Jill would have him. She’d seemed awfully cool after last night. She’d recommended a shrink to him as they shared a cab to the office. She didn’t understand. No one would understand… unless… He picked up the phone again, searching through his circular file. There was no card, no number; they’d drifted that far apart. He buzzed for Billie again. “Get me through to Random House in New York City,” he said. “To Mr. Michael Englehart. He’s an editor there.”
But when he was finally connected, the voice on the other end of the line was strange and distant. “Mr. Cirelli? Were you a friend of Michael’s? Or one of his authors?”
Ted’s mouth was dry. “A friend,” he said. “Isn’t Michael in? I need to talk to him. It’s… urgent.”
“I’m afraid Michael’s no longer with us,” the voice said. “He had a nervous breakdown, less than a week ago.”
“Is he… ?”
“He’s alive. They took him to a hospital, I believe. Maybe I can find you the number.”
“No,” Ted said, “no, that’s quite all right.” He hung up.
Phoenix directory assistance has no listing for Anne Kaye. Of course not, he thought. She was married now. He tried to remember her married name. It took him a long time. Something Polish, he thought. Finally it came to him.
- I wonder if it is Pankowski?
He hadn’t expected to find her at home. It was a school day, after all. But someone picked up the phone on the third ring. “Hello,” he said. “Anne, is that you? This is Ted, in Chicago. Anne, I’ve got to talk to you. It’s about Melody. Anne, I need help.” He was breathless.
There was a giggle. “Anne isn’t here right now, Ted,” Melody said. “She’s off at school, and then she’s got to visit her husband. They’re separated, you know. But she promised to come back by eight.”
“Melody,” he said.
“Of course, I don’t know if I can believe her. You three were never very good about promises. But maybe she’ll come back, Ted. I hope so.
“I want to leave her something to remember me by.”
- To wrap up a bit, despite the many references to Melisandre, Dany, Catelyn and other fiery characters, mainly Mel, I do not think that Melisandre is purposely a bad character out to be evuul. I have sympathy for her and am saddened to think of her future, but she is playing a part in ushering in the new long night. I do think she is misguided and does not fully understand her own mission she is on as steared by the “fire god” R’hllor. If you want to know why, here are a few other things to read regarding Melisandre:
What to read next?
If you enjoyed reading this and would like another old GRRM story transcribed and noted, try one of these that have already been done (with more to come):
- Fast-Friend transcribed and noted. Written in December 1973, this story is a precursor to skinchanging, Bran, Euron, Daenerys, and ways to scheme to reclaim lost love.
- The Steel Andal Invasion– A re-read of a partial section of The World of Ice and Fire text compared to the story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man. This has to do with both fire and ice Others in ASOIAF.
- A Song for Lya– A novella about a psi-link couple investigating a fiery ‘god’. Very much a trees vs fire motif, and one of GRRM’s best stories out there.
- For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
- This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
- A Peripheral Affair (1973)– When a Terran scout ship on a routine patrol through the Periphery suddenly disappears, a battle-hungry admiral prepares to renew the border war.
- The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
- Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
- Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
- A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
- Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
- The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
- The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
- Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
- Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.
If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the A Song of Ice and Fire world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down menu above for the most content, or click on the page that just shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.
Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the GRRMspreader, theFattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!