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Five-String Guitar

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Guitar

It was late in the afternoon when Elijah had finally finished lugging his possessions into his new home. This was his last chance and he needed a new environment for inspiration. “I’ve given you too many chances! Your shit doesn’t sell! Give me a hit song or you're fired!” his producer had lashed during their last discussion.

Elijah hated his producer with a passion, and his reluctance to change his style in favor of record sales had to be overlooked if he wanted to keep a roof over his head. Elijah came from an era where great musicians could sell through sheer talent alone, but times were changing and he was being left behind in favor of what he referred to as, “overproduced horse shit.” He often found himself turning on the radio for inspiration, only to lose faith in the pursuit after hearing what people actually listen to.

I can’t make this trash! I refuse,” he chanted to himself, but after settling down and thinking it through, he’d unenthusiastically flip the radio back on and get back to his choir. Elijah had come into this business with the hope that his creativity and personal expression could shine through, but after years of touring with the band and finally disbanding due to lack of income, he was now forced into the business of writing songs for the new, younger bands.

Elijah despised the “new generation,” as they completely lacked the creativity and musicianship that had originally propelled him to fame. Having someone else write a song for you was an embarrassment in his day, but now it seemed the norm. The music business was a disgusting beast, he thought, but he was already in the industry and he couldn’t stop now.

After hours of relentless labor, Elijah pummeled into his couch, exhausted and unmotivated. His muscles ached and throbbed with every movement. After a few minutes of motionless thought, Elijah pulled himself to his feet to explore his new home. His tight schedule meant that he had not had a chance to even investigate his property before the purchase, but his producer had promised that the house was amazing and that the previous owner, like him, was a songwriter and already had a studio installed.

Red walls lined the hallways. Dusty shapes littered the walls from what Elijah imagined to be the location of the previous owner’s paintings and posters. Nails still protruded from the empty spaces. It was clear that the man’s belongings were quickly and harshly removed for the new owner. The house was considerably larger than he had imagined (considering what he had paid for it), and it seemed almost larger on the inside than it was on the outside.

As he moved through the lengthy hallways, he stumbled upon a large, impressive hall, with a steel winding staircase leading into a basement area. Elijah assumed that this must be where the studio was located. Eager to see the place he’d be spending most of his time in, he hurried towards to stairs. When he reached his destination, he glared in awe at how far down the stairs winded. “His studio must be underground!” he surmised.

Elijah began to wonder how the previous owner could have possibly given this place up. It was simply the most amazing house he had ever seen, and he couldn’t imagine why someone could possibly leave. The producer said the man had just “gone missing.” The police explained without a doubt that there was no forced entry and no signs of struggle, so they assumed that the man had just moved on, leaving all his possessions behind. Why, Elijah couldn’t even surmise, but he wasn’t about to question the decision. He cautiously moved down the flight of cold stairs, clawing the railing as he descended into the darkness. The steel was sturdy and sleek, without a creak or vibration during his trek.

As he reached the bottom, the light from the hall began to fade and he lost sight of where he was. After a few seconds of fumbling around in the dark, he happened upon a light switch and frantically flipped it on. It was a small, isolated room, with a single red door towering in front of him.

An ominous chill ran up Elijah’s spine, but he quickly got a hold of himself and moved toward the handle. The door seemed to call to him in a way, and after pondering it in his head for longer than he even realized, he began to hear faint notes coming from the room; beautiful, echoing notes.

Notes from what he thought had to be some sort of stringed instrument. “Someone must have left the radio on,” he thought, only to realize that he hadn’t heard something so beautiful come out of a radio in what seemed like a decade. Overwhelmed with haunting curiosity, he cautiously moved toward the door. He reached for the gold, shining handle and slowly turned the knob. Suddenly, he came to the realization that someone could be inside there, playing the instrument, and he bashed open the door with the fury of his instincts and gazed into the room.

It had to have been the most polished and intricate studio he’d ever seen. State-of-the-art microphones, tables, and computers littered the room. The moving guys must have completely missed the room; otherwise they would have taken everything. Elijah estimated that the room must have thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

After a few seconds of admiration, he quickly remembered why he had come in the first place and was startled to find that the music had stopped. The room was empty. “Man, I really am losing it,” he scoffed to himself, and moved toward the equipment. To his surprised, the studio was still recording, as if the previous owner had just got up and left before he even stopped the recording.

Elijah moved through the equipment with professional quickness, as years of experience had given him a mastery over the various knobs and buttons, and stopped the recording. Later, he decided, he would go back through the days of recording to see if he could figure out some clues as to why the previous owner had left so quickly, but something else had caught his attention that seemed to pull his eyes and mind away:

A white, gleaming guitar, still plugged in, lying on the floor near a fallen stool. Elijah quickly moved closer for further inspection. The craftsmanship was absolutely superb, and despite having the styling of a guitar from 50 years ago, the frets were completely fresh and the strings showed no signs of wear. As he subconsciously examined the find, he quickly realized that something was off.

He was so mesmerized by the design that he had not realized that the guitar was missing a string! Only five strings, ending with B. Even more interesting, the guitar seemed to be designed for six strings, considering the empty spot on the neck for the final, missing string. “Why would someone go through the trouble of making such an amazing guitar and then neglect the final string?” More interesting, he questioned, why was the previous owner playing an incomplete guitar? Furthermore, the guitar had clearly been dropped, but it was still in perfect condition.

Elijah, filled with even more questions, moved to grab the guitar. As his hand reached for the neck, the guitar seemed to glow even more than before, as if it were itching to be grabbed, to be played. Suddenly, before he made contact, his pocket began to vibrate. He pulled out his phone. “Great, this asshole again,” he shrugged, and answered the phone. The reception was terrible so he moved out of the room and headed back up the stairs.

“What did I tell you, man? Am I right or am I right? I know the studio is a little small, but it should be fine!” his producer shouted. The man always seemed to shout when he talked, like he didn’t even know how loud his own voice was. Elijah didn’t know what Bob meant by “small,” as the studio was much larger than his old one, but he dismissed the error. “It’s great… it’s… it’s amazing actually. You were right, as always,” he reluctantly admitted with a sigh under his breath.

“I’m expecting great things from you, E. Don’t let me down!”

“Don’t worry, I’ll have a few songs for you in a bit.”

“Alright man… you know… I understand how you feel,” he remarked with a hint of fake empathy. “You have to understand though, times are changing, and if you don’t get on the train, the train is going to leave you behind!”

“He has the nerve to talk to me about 'keeping with the times' when he’s still using archaic phrases from last century,” Elijah mocked in his mind. “Yeah Bob, I know. So anyway, I’m not finished unpacking so I’ll catch you later, alright?”

“Sure thing E. Peace.”

Elijah eagerly threw the phone back into his pocket. His back was giving out and he needed to lie down. The guitar, he figured, would have to wait until tomorrow. He hadn’t set up his bed yet, so he moved to his couch for the night.

Elijah didn’t sleep well. He couldn’t stop thinking about the guitar. The notes he heard before he opened the door echoed through his dreams. Suddenly he shot up from the couch. It was 5:00 AM and the sun had not yet risen. Still, Elijah could no longer attempt to sleep, so he got up off the couch.

He was moving towards the spiraling staircases before he even realized what he was doing. To his amazement, the notes that had been reverberating in his head now could be audibly heard throughout the house. Again, it was coming from the red door. This time, he wasn’t going to take his time. He rushed down the stairs and pushed into the door. Without even looking around, he immediately headed for the guitar.

It was still there, and the music, again, had stopped. He reached quickly for the guitar but stopped himself moments before contact. He didn’t know why, but something, his gut he assumed, told him not to touch it. Something was wrong with this guitar, with the whole scene in general.

The studio still recording, the stool on the floor, the guitar laying so perfectly gleaming on the floor where it must have been for at least a few weeks, the missing string; none if it made any sense. Still, he would never know unless he inspected further, so he gulped and grabbed the guitar off the floor...

Nothing happened; nothing, at least, that he could see. The guitar, now in his hands, seemed to lose the glow that had emitted from it when on the floor. The warm, smooth neck felt perfect in his hands. He pulled the stool up and sat down, putting the guitar into playing position. He set his fingers and strummed an open E major chord. The guitar was perfectly in tune, though the lack of the high E string left the familiar chord lacking in completeness. Still, the tone was the most beautiful thing he’d ever heard.

Before even thinking, he realized that the guitar sounded exactly like the notes he had been hearing all night. It was so clean and beautiful that he didn’t even realize it was a guitar. The notes, he figured, must have come from some sort of harp, but amazingly, the perfect tone was emitting from this guitar.

Immediately coming to his senses, he jumped up and scanned the room. “WHERE ARE YOU? COME OUT!” he demanded. Someone must have been playing the guitar, and he was so caught in the moment that he had completely forgotten to analyze the situation. He moved quickly through the studio, feeling the walls for hidden doors and scanning the floor for trap doors.

After a few minutes of frantic searching, he couldn’t find anything. “Could it be the recording?” he thought, and moved into the previous room to inspect the equipment. It was all off, just like he had left it the previous day. Nothing recording, no playback initiated… nothing. The whole situation was entirely too weird, but Elijah quickly remembered the guitar, and immediately moved back to his prize.

Fascinated, he went back to playing position and began to accustom himself with the instrument. The lack of a first string was still a little weird to him, but the amazing tone of the previous strings more than made up for it. He began plucking through his repertoire of classics. Never had Zeppelin sounded so amazing. The tone was all encompassing and perfect for any genre, he soon found out. It fit with nearly everything, and made everything sound better. “This is absolutely amazing,” he exclaimed.

Dozens of possibilities flew through his head. “This could be the break I need!” he enthusiastically pondered. “This is absolutely fantastic. I don’t care what kind of shit people like nowadays, there is no way they won’t dig this tone.”

He gently set the guitar down on the stool and moved into the other room to set up a recording. “Back in business,” he remarked, and began doing what he loved.

After several hours of recording, he was confident that he had some great material to show to his producer.

“Bob, you’re going to love this. If you can, try to get over here as soon as you can!”

“Sure thing bro. Be there in a bit.”

Bob arrived the next day, irritated. Clearly he wasn’t too happy about getting off his ass to come to Elijah’s new house, but he was eager to see if Elijah still had it. His shirt wasn’t tucked beneath his suit and his hand was constantly feeling his phone. If this flopped, Elijah would be fired for sure. He wasn’t worried about that, however, because he couldn’t imagine anyone disliking what he’d made with his secret weapon. Elijah led Bob into his living room, where a surround sound system had been recently set up. “You’re going to love this, I guarantee it,” he echoed.

“It better be,” he retorted with a grumpy sort of tone. Clearly, he wasn’t in the mood to fake a nice attitude. Elijah plugged his mp3 player into the system and played what he had recorded the previous day. The guitar’s clear tone shone threw the speakers. Bob was fixated immediately. “What… what is that? Is that a guitar? How did you get that tone?”

“It’s something I’ve been working on for a while,” Elijah lied.

“Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s good. Great, even. Keep this up, and keep up that amazing tone, and you’ll be in business. I’ll call the band right-“

“Wait!” Elijah shouted with sudden urgency. “Actually, I was thinking of recording an album myself."

“E, we’ve been through this, you’re-"

“I know Bob, I know, but this time I know it’ll be a hit, I promise.”

“I don’t like this… but if you keep up this quality… I guess I can give you another shot.”

“Believe me sir, you won’t regret it!” he shouted with enthusiasm.

“Alright man, but this is all or nothing, and keep to this new style. None of that old crap.”

Elijah shook with deep anger, but attempted to ignore the comment. “Yeah… yeah sure, of course. You’ve got it.”

“If you’ll excuse me, I have some other matters I need to get to. I’ll talk to you soon.” Bob headed for the door without a word and left as quickly as he came.

Elijah was bursting with excitement. He hadn’t been this happy since the first record deal. “Finally, another shot. I’m back in business… back in the spotlight.” Fueled by a newfound drive, he immediately headed back toward the studio to keep recording.

On his way, he suddenly realized that he had not even finished exploring the house! He was so fixated on the guitar and on recording that he had completely neglected further exploration. He wandered through the red halls toward the section of the house he had not yet looked at. Towards the end of the hallway, he saw another door. “ANOTHER bedroom?” he thought. He opened the door, but he found something he didn’t expect: a recording studio. This one, however, was empty.

They clearly didn’t miss this room. Small and cramped, he quickly realized that this must be the studio Bob was talking about. Why the house had two studios, he could not understand. More interesting, how could the movers have possibly missed the bigger one downstairs, and why was Bob unaware of it?

The previous owner was another artist under Bob’s label, so he must have been with him at some point when he was recording. Why then would he neglect to mention the other studio? Furthermore, why would the previous owner use this cramped studio when there is a better one downstairs?

Suddenly the music from the room sounded gently through the halls. Elijah was noticeably concerned at this point. Once again, before he could even think he was moving towards the studio. Before he even realized what he was doing, he stood in front of the red door. This time, he opened the door quietly; hoping to catch a glimpse of the room before whatever was in there realized he was there.

Despite his efforts, the sound stopped as soon as he opened the door. The guitar was still there, this time gleaming in the low studio light more than ever. He moved towards the instrument without hesitation. He eagerly picked up the guitar and began playing. Ideas seem to flow into his head whenever it was in his hands, ideas that he had previously never even remotely thought about.

“This thing is an inspirational magnet!” he proclaimed. As he continued to play, he suddenly realized that he wasn’t coming up with ideas at all. He was just… playing them. His fingers moved through the frets with pinpoint efficiency, and songs just seemed to flow from the strings, like they weren’t even his fingers at all!

He immediately dropped the guitar out of complete disbelief and it landed with an angry thud. Realizing what he did, he scrambled to inspect the damage. To his amazement, the guitar was perfectly fine. He examined the impact with intense care and not a scratch was present. There was something very wrong here, and Elijah’s instincts began to overshadow his love for the instrument.

He backed away, glaring at its perfect body as he moved. The glow seemed to intensify, like it knew it was being neglected. Elijah felt a mental pull from the strings, like he was connected and now was trying to break away. Filled with a sudden drive for survival, he turned and burst out of the recording room, slamming the door behind him. He remembered the recording, and immediately went through the history to figure out what the previous owner was recording.

As he re-winded through day after day, he began to lose hope in the endeavor, but immediately jumped back as loud, screeching and distorted noises slammed through the speakers. Horrendous screams began to emit from the recording, but were slowly silenced as the sound of the horrible distorted noises overpowered and converted the screams to notes. Elijah was horrified and immediately shut off the recording. To his horror, music from the instrument began to play. He could see the strings from the guitar in the recording room through the glass, plucking themselves with a newfound confidence and lack of care that Elijah now knew what was happening.

Elijah bolted out of the studio, completely in shock. The notes echoed from the room as he rushed up the stairs. It grew in intensity as he moved away. The tone became more distorted, more… wrong. The major chords turned to minor, the soothing tone became dark and cold. The perfect melodies become dissonant and hard to distinguish. Elijah knew now that there was something seriously wrong with that instrument, and he was determined to figure it out.

Elijah grabbed his laptop and began researching the disappearance of the previous owner. He dug deeper, looking for anything that could explain the disappearance, and a possible connection to the guitar. The previous owner was named Bryan Reynolds, and his disappearance was not unique. The name seemed familiar, like he had heard of him before. Elijah quickly found related articles: similar disappearances. The music from the studio was getting louder as Elijah dug deeper. Four different cases, all with the same characteristics.

Even more unsettling, they were all musicians. “Yeah, yeah… I knew about that guy. Great musician,” he said to himself. A man named Gabriel Morales was before Bryan, and a woman, named Delilah Williams, before him. Elijah couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but there was something strange about these names. Next was an Adrian Johnson. The guitar grew louder, more primal. What was once a simple melody was now full, out-of-tune power chords, piercing his ears with distorted malice. His head throbbed as he struggled to view the last name: Evelyn Myers. Elijah then realized what was off about the names…

Suddenly, a strong current came through the house, knocking the laptop off the desk and pushing Elijah to the floor. Bewildered and hurt, he struggled to his feet, but the current pushed harder. His body flung like a ragdoll through the house. He quickly realized that he wasn’t being pushed, but rather pulled. Pulled down the spiraling staircase.

He hit every stair, losing consciousness with every impact. The force of his body broke through the closed red door, wood shattering around him. Elijah grabbed the corner of the door, clinging for his life. His body seemed to stretch as he resisted. The guitar was practically breaking his eardrums as he resisted the pull. Suddenly, the area he was holding broke off the door, and he flew full speed toward the five-string guitar.

Bob carefully opened the door. Elijah hadn’t responded to his calls for two days now, and he feared something was wrong. As he made his way through the house, he quickly realized that everything was exactly how it was when he left the previous visit. The unopened boxes remained near the door and the house was still relatively empty. “E! E, where are you?” he yelled through the house.

As he moved through the hallways, he spotted the staircase. He could almost hear the faintest sound of music coming from the bottom. He moved down, the old stairs creaking and squeaking as he moved. The bottom of the staircase was dark, and he scanned the walls with his hands until he found the light switch, turning it on as quickly as possible.

The room was a dead end. Bob glanced over near the wall at a peculiar sight…

A white, six-string guitar lay there, beautiful and complete.

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