It wasn't something anybody remembered.
It was ancient.
It was there before things were things. At the time, it was the only sound, a time before sounds could be made. It formed strings, tiny strings, gargantuan strings, and from those strings, other things emerged - eventually things from which sound could be created.
It was always playing, somewhere and everywhere, but its combinations were getting so complex, its instances getting so out of phase, that the original was getting harder and harder to make out.
But there it was at the basis of it all when we first emerged on this planet, when we first raised our hands in friendship, and our fists in anger. It was playing when we invented songs of our own, perhaps attempting to imitate something we knew existed but never heard quite clearly.
Once in a great while, one of us would happen to recreate a few notes from it, and it would stop listeners in their tracks, as if being reminded of something from their childhood, yet there was nothing there to truly remember. Other times, a few words from it would appear in text from a fortunate author, and the tome would become the stuff of legend, said to contain the ultimate truths of our condition. Upon the rare occasions where speakers could evoke some fragment of its intonations and emotions, battles would come to a brief standstill, and the audiences would wonder privately what they had just experienced.
Its original language was long lost. The likelihood of it actually reappearing in our world was infinitesimal. But even translated versions of its phrases were powerful enough to launch thousands of copies and variations. Certain note and rhythm combinations from it, whenever accidentally recreated, would mark the start of entirely new genres in music. We had our own songs to replace it, pale copies, but because we did not have the original, ours would have to do. They would have to drown out all the imperfections that resulted from imperfect imitations of its lyrics.
Our world moved on, splintered into thousands and hundreds of thousands of different branches. Yet it was still playing underneath it all, in a way we couldn't hear, but at the fundamental basis of our reality. It played when we first looked to the skies. It played when we first destroyed one another after scratching the surface of its outer secrets. It played when snippets of its words were twisted in ways used to dominate and control one another. It played as we launched off our planet and into worlds beyond.
Eventually everyone was coming up with their own versions, their own variations. Each spoke to us in fundamental ways. We searched the stars to satisfy our curiosity. We sent each other our own versions of it to understand our inner selves. Those days were the height of our civilization, a time when the universe was still young, a time when we had conquered death itself, and we sent our ideas to the far reaches of our observable world.
It wasn't until most of the known stars began dying that she began her tenure at a music institute.
Her age was something she had long forgotten and no longer cared about. Her tenure at the institute was a brief one, but what was brief to a species that was immortal? A species that no longer saw value in calculating time? By then, others were already compiling enormous compendiums of music and songs passed down from the ages, auto-filtered by the machines, and filed into millions of categories.
Heaven did not last forever. Eventually every star was dead or dying, and mortality returned to us.
They didn't meet until long after that started.
Music was just a hobby to her at that point. She was one of the final members of his species he would ever see. They made their home together among the dimming stars, while she worked on simplifying some of the great songs of legend. Even for a species that was no longer immortal, they still lived for an extremely long time - enough to know almost everything there was to know about the other.
And as the last stars faded, so did their health. They both could see it coming - the end of all light in their world. When she wrote her final song for him, she was quite modest about it. Someone with so many accolades in her lifetime no longer needed praise.
"It's just a mishmash of everything others have written," she said. "There's nothing original about it."
But when she sang it for the first time, something exploded in his mind, as if this was something he knew all along and finally remembered. From that moment on, he couldn't get it out of his head.
Even as she passed on a few days later, they both knew it, and played a recording of it. They would be the only two people in this world to have heard it, but they both knew what it was, even as they both knew death was coming for the two of them.
He attempted to play her song himself after she was gone, to remind himself of their time together. But he could never do it justice. Eventually his recording device failed as well and could play no longer.
One day, he went to bed, and slipped into a dream for the last time. There he could hear the song as clear as the first time she sang it. There was nothing else but the song, at a time before sounds could be made. And then the song changed into things, and other things formed from those things, even as the song played on.