The Piano

March 25, 2015 at 12:00 AM

The eerie house on the corner of the street isn't a place where I'd ever consider going. However, as the downpour that begun seconds ago intensifies I make a short sprint for the verandah of the creepy residence.

I look down the street, shivering a little because of the unpleasant temperature that’s come down with the water. I can see my house from here, but the violent rainfall prevents me from making any attempt to go there without getting completely soaked and, on top of that, likely catching a cold, so I stay put.

The woodwork of the house looks shoddy. It seems like it’s never really been maintained or properly cherished. It is how the rest of the house looks, as well. There are cracks in a lot of places and the paintwork is crumbly. This house is a wreck.

The sound of raindrops finding the roof above me in their way is deafening, but through the noise I can hear a few musical notes; the hint of a melody enters my brain and frustrates me beyond belief because I can’t hear more of it. As I put my ear to the shutters I realize I have no idea who lives here. I’ve never seen anyone; much less even heard about any potential inhabitants, yet it’s never been for sale.

I can hear the music better now. The sound above my head still partly drowns it out but I can make out the melody and most of the tones. There it is; a haunting piano tune enters my ears. It sounds dark, emotional, driving. It makes me feel sad. I push myself to the wall, curling up, trying to make myself somewhat comfortable while listening.

Some time has passed when I catch myself in a mesmerized state. It can’t have been more than a few minutes, but the music is captivating. I get up and shiver again. Maybe I should get out of the cold, I decide. It’s unhealthy. The door is a few feet to my left, so I walk over and use the knocker while trying to stay dry. The sound echoes through the house. Trying to imagine who could play such beautiful music, my brain paints me nothing less than a dark angel, gently stroking the keys to elicit the inspired tune from the fragile instrument.

The music builds up to a sudden stop which one might expect to end again after a few seconds, used to highlight the music even more. It however only highlights the opening of the front door. It creaks, but the figure behind it seems untouched by the state of disrepair into which the house has fallen. The man is in his thirties, it would seem, and dressed mostly in dark colors.

“Come in,” he says and steps aside. No ‘Why are you here’ or ‘What can I do for you’; I have to assume the violent precipitation hasn’t escaped even his attention. He leads me to the lounge. It’s mostly a large open space with a single coffee table, a couch and some chairs. Next to the fireplace is the grand piano.

Intrigued, I listen as he seats himself and continues playing. It’s as if he never stopped; as if it’s all part of the same musical score. Yet, all traces of such a score remain to be seen. The rack on top of the piano is empty; is he doing this from memory, I wonder? I can barely imagine this is improvised.

The music slowly dies away as my host carefully strokes the last few keys, leaving me on the edge of my seat. Only as soon as the faint hum of the last note has disappeared, do I dare raise my voice. “Impressive,” I say. The pianist gets up and smiles. “Welcome to my house,” he says. “I am Regar Fornley.”

Raising one eyebrow and leaning ever so slightly forwards, it’s clear that he expects me to introduce myself. “I am Jake Daniels,” I say. “I live at 209, just down the street.” I make a faint gesture with my hand. Regar walks towards me and sits down on the opposite side of the table, on the couch. “Jake.” He weighs the name on his tongue. “I don’t often get visitors. Why don’t you stay a while?” He grins.

He pours me a drink after I nod. It’s tea; that’ll do me some good after sitting outside in the cold. “I haven’t seen you before,” I say, “even though we’re practically neighbors. How long have you lived here for?” “Oh, years. I don’t really go out much.” He takes a sip from his own cup and smiles. I look down at my drink. Something about the man makes me feel uncomfortable, as if it doesn’t quite add up. “The music,” I try. “Is it from memory or improvised?”

Regar’s grin widens. “Improvised. My, you’re observant.” His behavior scares me. This is not the man who was playing the piano just then; I can tell. The grin seems to be glued to Regar’s face as if it’s a mask, worn to conceal what horrors lie beneath. His eyes, however, tell the truth.

I have to get out. I rise from my chair. “I’m terribly sorry, Regar-” “Sit.” His voice is stern and his command doesn’t brook refusal. His smile is gone; he frowns. I fall back. “Yes, you’re very observant,” he repeats. “Maybe you’re too observant.” A sensation of panic begins to come over me. What is he on about? “You’re not foolish,” he says. His voice takes a turn for the hostile. “Why don’t you just trust your gut and run away? Why don’t you RUN!” he snarls. “What’s going on?” I ask, scared by his sudden mood-shift.

He jumps up from the couch and violently paces back to the piano. He doesn’t sit down; instead he begins mashing keys. It sounds frightening, for amidst all the chaos I can almost make out a melody – almost, but not quite. The sound of it all deeply terrifies me; he’s not playing something random. It all sounds perfectly calculated and planned but it’s pure mayhem.

Regar stops and looks at me, breathing heavily. “What was that?” I ask. He walks back towards me, slowly, but something about the pianist’s movements makes me want to cower in a corner. He steps behind my chair and grabs my shoulders. “That was me you just listened to;” he whispers. “A window into my soul.” He tightens his grip and his fingernails dig into my skin. “Stop that, it hurts,” I say, shivering.

“It HURTS?” Regar grabs my collar and pulls me out of my chair, spraying spittle around as he yells at me. “Shall I tell you what hurts? Living every fucking day with a mind that’s been ripped to shreds!” He throws me on the floor. “Being unable to maintain a train of thought for longer than a few minutes is what fucking hurts!” he screams, kicking at the chair I just sat in. One of the legs breaks. I pick myself up but Regar pushes me to the wall. I hit my head and his face spins in front of me.

“Do you know what hurts most, though?” he says, holding me firmly against the wallpaper. “I want to mutilate your body,” he hisses. “I want to break your spine; I want to maim you until nothing recognizable is left!” He grabs my chin, squeezing my cheeks. “Do you know why that hurts me?” “Why?” I ask with a small voice. “Because somewhere, deep down I know it’s sick to want to do that to someone,” he whispers.

Letting go of me and sinking to the floor, Regar suddenly has an incredibly distorted look on his face, as if he feels many contradicting emotions and can’t decide what he should feel . I rub the back of my skull. There’s no blood. I shake my head a little to get rid of the wooziness. The pianist looks at me. “Run, Jake.” he says. “Just… fucking run away and don’t come near me ever again.”

I consider doing just that; it’s tempting. However, my compassion and curiosity make me decide to go against my better judgment and sit next to him. I rest my arm on his shoulder. “What happened to you?” I ask. “You can’t always have been like this.” Regar laughs. It’s the laugh of a madman; it doesn’t sound pretty. “If only I knew,” he says.

There’s a pause. “You should really go now, before I suddenly decide it’s a good idea to kill you for no clear reason,” he says. I slowly get up. “And that’s the worst thing,” he continues. “Asking myself why but coming up empty-handed.” I glance at the piano next to the fireplace. “Why do you make music?” I ask.

Regar gazes at me with a surprised look on his face. “Because it’s beautiful,” he says. “I never thought about that; I suppose that’s one question I now know the answer to.” He gets up and drags himself back to the instrument. He rests his fingers on the keys, but then he reconsiders and looks at me from over his shoulder. “Is the answer to one question enough to live for?” he asks. I remain silent; I don’t know.

Regar resumes playing. It sounds different this time. It sounds sad, with a touch of the anarchy I heard earlier. But there’s a bright thread of positivity woven through the music, hopeful, as if it’s all worth it in the end. It seems like he’s made up his mind.

I leave him like that. It has stopped raining and I walk through the puddles of water, escorted by Regar’s music until I suddenly realize that I can’t hear it anymore. It’s still playing in my head, not losing its grip on me, but my ears only pick up the rustle of leaves and city sounds. I look back. Over my shoulder, the house erects itself as if nothing had happened. I think Regar knows perfectly well how scary it looks, like he knows his music.

I wonder what will happen to him. One thing I do know is that his haunting melodies have anchored themselves into my soul, and every time I pass the street corner I’ll take a listen to see if I can hear any of them. Even a madman needs an audience sometimes.

Credit To – Kay


January 29, 2015 at 12:00 AM

You woke up to a faint clattering noise, wondering what it was. For a moment, you pondered just sleeping through it, but considering it awakened you it could be a better idea to check it out – and rid yourself of a potential cause of insomnia in the process. Putting on your slippers, you made your way to the light switch. The harsh change of atmosphere drove any leftover drowsiness from your head as the bulb in the center of the room flickered to life.

The tapping and clanging continued as you listened to it, trying to identify the source of the noise. It seemed to be coming from somewhere below. Is there someone in my house? you wondered while your heart started to pound. Careful, trying not to make a noise, you grabbed the broom – the first thing to come to mind – from in the corner of your room. It was firm and rigid in your hands and would surely make for a decent weapon.

With every step you took, you were worried the next stair would creak. With every step you took, you were once again relieved that it didn’t, while slowly making your way down. Your foot touched down on the carpet in the hallway, having cleared the most risky obstacle. Cautiously, you snuck towards the living room. The noise got louder and louder as you came closer, leaning slightly towards the door, ready to take a peek and see whether someone was rummaging through your belongings.

The moonlight shone into the room, illuminating someone sitting near the display case, trying to get to the adornments and jewelry inside. The case was still closed, much to your relief; the thief hadn’t had the time to open it up and steal any valuable belongings before waking you up. A sudden reflection of light alerted you to some tool the stranger seemed to be holding. Tap. Tap. Tap.

With the burglar preoccupied, you considered your chances and tightened your grip on the solid broomstick. It was well within your right to defend your own property and, having made up your mind, you quietly snuck in. While lifting the broom above your head, you must have made a noise since the intruder, aware of the danger, suddenly turned around to face you.

CAW! CAW! A flash of reflected light blinded you, making you cover your eyes and stumble backwards. You caught a glimpse of something, but it wasn’t the tool you expected to see – what was it? You stepped back through the door, into the hallway to create some distance between the intruder and yourself before opening your eyes again. What you saw in front of you upon doing so wasn’t human; one half of its face was concealed in darkness but the other was illuminated.

A magpie’s head, made from a dark –almost black – metal, looked at you with eyes made out of gemstones. The metal had many seams and crevices, causing it to move in an innapropriately natural manner as its head tilted. The rubies in its eye sockets, a bloody shade of red, didn’t seem dead or inanimate. Instead, a maleficent intelligence seemed to house behind them, not at all associated with the human body wearing the monstrous piece of armor.

The magpie spread its arms and you recognized the scraping, clanging noise you heard earlier. All kinds of necklaces and jewelry seemed to hang down from the bird’s arms, making it look as if the creature had wings – an intimidating sight, as it slowly stepped towards you. Its beak opened itself, giving birth to a horrific noise. CAW! It reached for you, trying to close its hands around your neck.

Suddenly coming to your senses, you smacked it on its head with the broom, as hard as you could. The wood broke on the hard metal and a painful feeling shot up through your arms, making you drop the useless remains. You ran away, towards the kitchen, reaching for a knife, while the magpie with its ringing metal wings chased after you. Grabbing the largest knife you could find, you turned around. There the creature was, in all its vile glory. You reacted quickly, driving the knife into the vulnerable area of the chest, right under where the metal ended.

For a moment, all seemed lost as the creature didn’t even stagger and instead pecked at your face, determined to cut it up. Slowly, however, the massive metal bird began to collapse, sinking to the ground. One last time it looked at you with deadly intent but then the presence in its eyes faded away, escorted by a loud brattle as it fell.

Relieved, you let go of the dangerous utensil and sat down on the floor, as far away from the dead body as you could. Letting go of your bated breath, you glanced back at the bird, suddenly noticing something was wrong – its metal parts were melting!

You were all too late with your keen observation as you suddenly felt a freezing sensation on your skin. The cold steel agonizingly slowly flowed up your back, over your shoulders, up your neck. You tried to wipe it off, but it stuck to your hands and continued its way to your face. You screamed, yelled, begged of it to let go of you, to leave you be. You rolled over the floor, kicked and clawed at the pearly droplets creeping towards you; all in vain.

The liquid reached your eyes, forcing its way in between your eyelids when you closed them; the cold metal poured into your mouth and filled your ear tubes until you could hear nothing but your own heartbeat, see nothing but darkness and taste nothing but the unpleasantly cold metal folding itself around your teeth. You tried to breathe, but you couldn’t get air. Slowly, your consciousness slipped away, leaving you in a dream-like state as the world around you became visible again in a contemptuous shade of red and a hunger awakens within you – one that can only be satisfied through the most precious of valuables.

That is your story. It has become part of ours now, like you have become part of us. We stand on the rooftop as our wings jingle in the wind and a raw, victorious chant echoes over the city, striking fear into the hearts of the wealthy: we are the magpie; beware our greed.

Credit To – Kay


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