25 Mar The Piano
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"The Piano"Written by
Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
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