darkness, my old friend.
I've come to talk with you again.
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains within the sound
-"The Sound of Silence," Paul Simon
A low toned note cut through the quiet darkness, a hypnotic yawn that soaked into her dreams and whisked her gently away to a time and place she'd gone back to several times, but this one seemed entirely new. It was powerful, the music and the time. The world grew very still. There are some things, it said. Some things that get left behind once a person is gone. Remnants of their lives they don't mean to keep in the land of the living. Hollow objects that had no soul are suddenly filled with breathing, thinking beings that suddenly have a mind of their own. Some can feel it just being around them. It is a heavy, thick feeling, sometimes warm and comforting. Often times it is the uncontrollable burst of emotions the person purposefully or accidentally left behind that hovers around his most treasured possession.
One cannot fathom the deadliness nor the danger of an item left behind by a person obsessed with the one tool that could express his emotions so deeply that it used no words and yet caused even the most heartless man to break under its pressure if exploited right. A tool used to manipulate emotions is the most deadly weapon, especially if the person who used it is dead. Its powers then shatter from its mortal boundaries and careen out of control. Anyone formerly associated with it is in danger of any number of expository consequences, of even losing their minds. It will call them to it, and suck all reason and memory from them of it and everything concerning it.
The warning, comforting note grew dim and powerless. The sound that once cut through the night was slapped harshly away by another, beating it down under its blazing temptation. It laughed at the yawn with a sad squealing; calling, calling, calling… The yawn was now only an echo; it could not win when it was so far away in time, and the squeal was presently so strong that its cry floated around her, taking her away in its clutches. There was no escaping it now. She could do nothing but begin to forget, and at the same time slowly wake. We try to cling to our unconscious mind just before we wake, as she did. But all yawning and squealing disappeared with conscious thought. The only thing that remained, was the yearning. The ugly, black and purple shock of yearning that would take her. She was condemned to its whim.
She opened her eyes.
O O O o o o O o o o O O O
It was just an instrument; propped upright so that the long shadows in the dark room, shaded by heavy curtains, stretched across it in smooth streaks. Dusty lamplight otherwise filtered through the unclosed door and oozed onto the violin in no particular pattern. She watched the dust settle on and around it, but the thin layer didn't make much of a difference to its shine; not any difference a human eye could see.
It was polished wood and of no particularly wonderful shade, save for the fact that it may have been darker than others of its kind. Christine didn't find it fascinating at any rate, and thought it not even in the greatest condition. There were several nicks and scratches that it had collected over the years, grooved roundly with age, the sharper accidents obviously more recently made. If it had a previous owner, the marks were probably made by him. Christine was under the impression that Erik would never be the cause of any careless blemishes on a treasured instrument, incidental or not.
Nevertheless, whatever the history of the violin was, it was lost and deeply forgotten save for the permanent reminders remaining engrained in its flesh. Nobody could guess how each mark was made, or what kind of person had owned it before.
Well of course I know, Christine thought. It was a mad artist. They are always mad artists.
With Erik's reputation, he probably bargained it off the street from some aged, homeless performer who probably had many more violins just like the one she was looking at now. Or Erik gave him an offer he couldn't refuse. Any offer would be an offer he couldn't refuse if food money was his main priority. She imagined a grizzled man with tufts of hair falling out and rotten teeth.
He was probably genuinely insane, she added to her thoughts, simultaneously noticing four small puncture marks in the violin. Like fingernail scratches. He sold it because it reminded him of his mental instability. The creative conclusion she'd come up with made her laugh quietly. "Hee," it sounded like. Just a stress on an exhale. "Hee."
Christine didn't know what had prompted her to slide silently out of bed in the dead of night to look at it. Erik had only played it for her a couple times before. Yet there she stooped, directly in front of it as the glow of the hall light continued to peek into the dark room. She personally didn't see how music so beautiful could come from such a plain instrument. Perhaps not everyone thought it was plain. Perhaps Erik thought it was beautiful. Perhaps the old madman thought it was beautiful before he tore at it as if it were a living thing. As if he struck to dig into someone's scalp with his clammy, gray fingers. His dead fingers that had lost their ability to play such an instrument.
No, she thought, craning her neck to inspect the violin harder. No, the old man didn't claw at it. There are no fingernail marks here. They must just have been shadows. Shadows in the shapes of puncture marks! How silly. How very silly of me to think such thoughts. The stressed exhale again. The stifling of a vocal laugh. "Hee." It must be the night that is putting these thoughts into my head.
Christine closed her eyes slowly, then opened them again. No, there weren't any puncture marks. Just a few unreadable scratches. She wanted to touch it, to hold it. How heavy was it? She extended two fingers cautiously and pressed them against the neck. What else would she feel with her fingers against a neck but a warm pulse and soft skin?
She suddenly drew her hand back, but grinned in spite of herself. What an imagination we're having tonight! She thought, in a scolding tone. It nearly felt as if it were a human neck! How ridiculous of me. It is nothing but wood.
To justify the statement, she deliberately clasped her hand around the neck of the violin and picked it up off of its stand. She yanked it a little too much more than necessary, expecting it to be heavier. It barely weighed anything, as a matter of fact.
It must be hollow, she noted silently. It mustn't have a heart. She was amused by her ability to poke fun at her own terrible imagination, but didn't take a second thought before checking through the slits to look for something that resembled an organ. Erik has an organ, she remembered suddenly. Perhaps he can help it.
She was prepared to leave the room with the violin before she realized that Erik played a musical organ and that he didn't have any spare hearts. She laughed at her mistake. "Hee. Hee." Erik probably wouldn't have liked to see Christine with his instrument, either. She wasn't supposed to be in his room, touching his things. She knew she shouldn't have been, but the most Erik would do was send her back to sleep, so there was no real harm in looking.
Besides, she thought. What is he going to do? Take it from me like he took it from that old man? It's just as much mine as it is his. He shouldn't even play such a thing. It has such a personality of its own. To play it seems animalistic.
Christine stroked it and ran her fingers along each groove. The scratches that made up the fingernail marks were actually much deeper than she first noticed them to be. Fingernails could surely penetrate the soft wood enough to make a small wedge, but these marks must have been made… Must have been made by teeth. She tested the marks by closing her own mouth over them. Her teeth fit perfectly into the indents, and she pulled away with a sticky sucking noise. Was the wood really so gentle? Was it supposed to make that sound?
She realized that she had been clasping onto the neck quite tightly. Would her fingers have hurt it? Christine moved her hand down to the body of the violin to discover that the neck was now severely damaged by her hands. The imprints of her fingers were so deep that the neck arched slowly inward. She fearfully pushed it back to the way it was supposed to go. The strings stretched taut and whined indignantly. Waaaarrroowwrr…Weeee…
It sounded almost like a voice.
The strings pitched higher and Christine pushed her ear close to make out what they were saying.
It was silly, actually. Like the peculiar night. If only Erik were there, he could understand what it was trying to say. She patiently waited for it to repeat itself.
Wrooollleeesss…Reee… Rooollleeeeees….Mree… Release…
"Release me…" Christine whispered as it dawned on her. She looked through the wide slits again. The mouth of this instrument. She tried to find whatever it was that was asking her a favor. She saw nothing. The strings. They must be keeping hold of it. Like ropes.
The voice was coming from inside. She had to loosen the strings.
Christine tugged at the bridge of the violin and tested how strong each string was. They were wound so tightly that they laid suspended above the instrument entirely, she discovered. She poked each string again, and finally pulled on one. The smallest one. It seemed weakest. She could get rid of it first.
A high cracking sound echoed around the room, and Christine jumped. What had happened? What was that noise? She felt something warm spill down from her forehead to her chin and stinging pain abruptly erupted down the entire left side of her face. She nimbly raised her hands to feel a wound part like a pair of lips. Blood gushed onto her lap. She glared angrily down at the violin and saw that the string had snapped.
"Heeee!" she laughed, a screech of breath as she exhaled. She began to furiously tear at the remaining strings. "I'll show you! Release them!" Her fingers snagged around the strings. They sliced deeply into them as she tried to wrench the voice free. They seemed to laugh at her, those strings. They could cut her all they wanted, she wouldn't stop!
She heard liquid pattering and heavier thumps, and felt it seeping into her lap as she labored endlessly to release the poor voice within. She would free them! Like the old madman tried to free them! He must have failed, but she would not!
The final string tore away, and Christine waited, waited for the bare black fingerboard to speak, to express his happiness, freedom, anything… The task was done.
But all that remained was silence.
O O O o o o O o o o O O O
Two rooms down, Erik awoke to a strange sound. He could barely make it out but wasn't surprised to be awakened by the slight disturbance in the night. He was used to a regular utter silence, five stories below any natural noises.
Immediately alert, he pulled himself out of his coffin and opened his bedroom door to find the hall lamp brightly lit.
"Christine?" he called. The sound seemed to come from his music room. It was a sound like a tea kettle whistling when the water inside began to boil. High and airy. The door was slightly ajar so he gently pushed it wide to see the silhouette of Christine stooping in the middle of the room.
"Christine, what is that-" Erik's voice was suddenly swept off his lips as he turned the light on to similarly sweep away the darkness.
There his beloved sat in her nightgown, blood dripping from a ghastly facial wound that caused her tongue to loll out grotesquely. The bleeding was nearly stopped, but it was all collected in her lap and was pooled around her in spindly, tree branch lines. Something else was in her lap. They looked like clumps of blood at first, but upon closer inspection Erik realized them to be flesh. Chunks of bloody flesh. Only then did he notice her hands. Christine's once beautiful hands. Her fingers were now gory, misshapen blobs where the ivory-white of bone could be seen on each of her index fingers and her right thumb and middle finger. They clutched what was left of his violin. The one he'd saved from the grave of Christine's father.
"Christine," Erik uttered. "What… Your hands… and your face…" He was unable to continue, struck dumb by the insane nightmare reality.
And that wretched sound! Where was that sound coming from? The airy, hissing tea kettle sound.
The sound like a stressed exhale.