Author's note: Please note that this short story does contain gruesome imagery, strong language, and adult themes. Viewer discretion is advised.

Detective A. Wilson, Case file 311714, July 2008

New murder investigation today. This is the creepiest thing I’ve seen in a while. While the putrid smell of the victim’s apartment couldn’t do it, the state of the victim’s body made me throw up in my mouth. It was a mangled mess on the floor, unrecognizable pieces swimming a pool of deep red blood. This was clearly a homicide. The victim’s wallet in his bedroom confirmed his ID. It appeared as if the victim tried to fight back, suggested by the revolver near the body and the two bullet holes in the wall. The strangest part was that several weeks ago, another victim was discovered, mangled in the same fashion as this poor guy… We might have a serial killer on our hands. There was no will in his name, so the few valuable belongings that weren’t considered evidence (some furniture, a TV, a watch, and a piano, I think) were gathered and given to the victim’s parents.

No DNA (other than the victim’s) was found on anything. Luckily, we did discover a possible lead. In the blood puddle was what appeared to be the victim’s journal. Blood stains were on most of the pages, making them unreadable. However, it looks like the latest entries remained surfaced and intact. I’m transcribing the contents here.

May 28th 2008

Summer at last. No more homework, studying, and finals until September. My final that I took today didn’t really go well, but at least it’s done. However, when one ordeal is eliminated, another presents itself. I’m running out of money and in order to keep this hellhole of an apartment I need to find myself a job. Like I’m going to be able to do that in this ghetto…

I don’t understand. I thought college helped you find jobs more easily. I hope it’s worth it after it’s all over. With the economy the way it is, it seems like only scientists, engineers, or other people ruining their college experiences by choosing obscenely hard majors will attain careers. Being an artist doesn’t seem to cut it. At least I’m away from my parents. While I’m still rotting, at least I’m not rotting with them. They said I won’t become anything, that I’m doomed for failure and might as well just give up...

But they said a lot of things. “I can quit whenever I want.” “He just tripped and fell down the stairs.”

I need to believe that they were always wrong. I need to believe that my hard work and the scholarship I earned was merely a prelude to my success story.

June 4th 2008

All of this free time is killing me. After applying everywhere for work and getting no reply, I gave up for the summer. The anxiety of possibly losing my apartment is bothersome; but being alone, friendless, and lost to my thoughts is just torturous. Needing to escape, I got my keys, and went for a drive in my truck. After about an hour of aimless driving, I investigated a garage sale from a small house in a nearby neighborhood. I perused the selection of wares. Lamps, bed sheets, a dresser… all seemed in decent condition. Perhaps the owner was moving. One thing did catch my eye. In the distance was an upright piano. Its brown paint was chipped, but it still retained an aesthetic appeal. I played a couple notes; it was slightly out of tune. I remember taking piano lessons when I was a child, but when addiction overcame my parents, the funding was cut.

I thought to myself that purchasing this instrument might provide a distraction from my deleterious thinking. I approached who I assumed to be the proprietor - a man in that looked like he was in his fifties overseeing the sale. Something about his facial expression stuck with me… I know the face of depression when I see it, and this man had it. The haunting look in his eyes told a story of a life plunging into chaos, and all hope becoming lost. It was strange.

I asked about the price of the piano. He offered me the piano for thirty dollars, and I admitted that it seemed like a low price for a piano, but the man insisted that he would sell it to me for that price. Eventually I accepted the deal, loaded the piano into my truck, and set it up in my living room with the help of some other residents. I played a few songs that I could remember, but it was evident that my skills rusted with time. I’ll see if I can learn some songs though tutorials on the internet tomorrow.

June 5th 2008

Just when I had all but given up hope! I received a phone call from the mini-mart today for an interview. It’s certainly not my first choice for a job, but beggars can’t be choosers… Since I don’t have a nice suit, I decided to go with the outfit that I wear when I go to the bars. Unfortunately, that’s the best I’ve got. I’m spending the rest of the day practicing the interview in front of the mirror. Hopefully I won’t be nervous tomorrow.

June 6th 2008

Saying the interview went terrible would be an understatement. The manager was a total asshole right from the get-go. I spent all night preparing for the interview, and I thought I was completely ready for anything the interviewer could throw at me.

How wrong I was. The “office” that I was instructed to go to was a glorified closet. It made my apartment look good, and that’s saying something. I entered his office and looked around. There was not a single decoration on the walls, and I noticed slight faults on the ceiling. In front of me was the manager’s desk. He sat in a plastic chair that was clearly too small for such a fat man. I approached the desk and the manager welcomed me in with a slimy, toothy grin on his face. It was at this moment that I knew I was fucked. He said in an oily voice, “Have a seat.”

There was a major problem with that statement. There was not a single chair in the room other than his. And he knew it.

In retrospect, I could see why such a self-important narcissist like himself would ask that question. He probably thinks that it would test my ability to think in an uncomfortable situation or something. That’s not clever, that’s just rude. I answered the question by saying that I prefer to stand. He asked a few other questions about my job experience and whatnot. The sad reality is that this would in fact have been my first job, but I couldn’t admit that. Instead I told him that I was an excellent (art) student and a quick learner. That’s the best I could do.

Needless to say, there’s no way in hell I’m getting a call back. Screw this. I’m going to look back at this entry one day and be able to just feel the anger in the ink. Time to bust out the booze and go to bed.

Or pass out. Whichever comes first.

June 7th 2008

The weirdest thing happened last night. At about a quarter past 3 AM, I swear I heard music coming from the piano in the living room. The sound was very faint, but it did have the distinct piano tone. When I walked into the living room to investigate, the music stopped. That definitely got me spooked…

June 8th 2008

I was practicing this afternoon, when I struck an A in the higher register. No tone was played. I struck the note again, only to be greeted with a thud. I opened the piano and searched the interior to determine if anything was broken. As my eyes scanned toward the trouble area, I was startled and jumped back into the bench. Lodged between the hammer and the string was a large, dead, bleeding rat. Admittedly, this frightened the hell out of me when I saw it. I’ve seen rats before, but none were this big. This creature’s body was nearly a foot long. Each tooth was as long as a nail and as sharp as a blade. I bet a group of these rats could take down a dog. I took some tongs from my kitchen, removed the rat from my piano, and tossed the rat as well as the tongs into the dumpster. I wiped off the blood from the piano and sterilized the hell out of it.

I guess that explains the noise I heard the other night.

June 10th 2008

I heard the piano playing again. What followed, I will never forget.

The music that woke me up was more defined than the last occurrence. Last time, it was very faint albeit audible. This time, however, not only was the music much more audible, but it was actually music. I didn’t recognize the song, but it was a coherent, organized piece of music. I exited my bedroom and walked into the living room to investigate. The music continued. Astonished and a bit frightened, I turned on the lamp to see what was actually performing. I really had no idea what to expect. My finger shaking, I flicked the light switch.

As the room illuminated, I saw that on the piano bench, sat a girl. She was facing the piano until the sudden lighting caused her to turn around toward me. I felt like I was going to lose it, but something about her presence was strangely… calming.

No, no, no, NO. She wasn’t real. There is no way. Then what did I see? I don’t do any drugs. Deep in my heart, I knew that what happened wasn’t a hallucination. This was no dream. This was real.

When she turned around we locked eyes. I felt that I needed to run away. But I couldn’t. Something about her beauty was absolutely mesmerizing. She looked slightly younger than me. She had long, silky-smooth black hair that reflected the light just enough to detect a hint of blue. The look on her face when we gazed for the first time was what I could only describe as a combination of fear and sadness. Her sapphire blue eyes radiated a certain element of emptiness that lingered in her soul. She was wearing a short, black dress with black high-heels. Such attire would be suitable for a piano recital or performance, except hers had more personality to it.

After being lost in each other’s eyes for what seemed to be an eternity, she smiled. She then got up from the piano bench, walked toward the window, and gazed at the moonlight. I walked over and stood next to her. Finally, after minutes of silence, I asked, “Who are you?”

No reply. She just turned her head and faced me with a warm smile, then continued staring at the moon. Eventually, I took her hand and held it.

I woke up this morning feeling happy for the first time in months. This happened. I don’t care what anyone says.

June 26th 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry in here. I’ve been spending the past several nights with the girl. I was always awoken with a different, yet equally beautiful piano piece. I would then meet her in the living room, and enjoy each other’s company until dawn. She was still silent, but that’s okay. I could tell that she still listened to every word I said. I would spend hours talking to her about the troubles of life and such. The facial expressions that she would reply with made it so that I could always tell what she is thinking. She continued her beautiful piano playing, and I would listen as each sound resonated through my soul. What we had was absolutely perfect, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

However, the other night, something out of the ordinary happened. When I went into the living room to see her, she gave the same sad and fearful look that she gave me when we first met… and then just dissipated. Vanished. Gone.

This exact same scenario repeated for the past few nights. After some serious thinking, I concluded that her spirit is definitely connected to the piano somehow. Tomorrow I plan on going back to the garage sale that I bought it from and ask that strange man about it.

June 27th 2008

The visit was a real eye-opener. I gained so much information in this visit that I’m writing all of it down here while sitting in my truck, lest I forget important details. I pulled into the driveway where the garage sale used to be. The neighborhood seemed quiet. Too quiet. I knocked on the door thinking that there would be no answer, because the man had just moved or is dead on the floor. Thankfully, he answered the door promptly. After an awkward introduction, he invited me in for a cup of coffee. I entered the small house. It was reasonably large, and seemed rather empty. It looked like it hasn’t been cleaned in weeks. You could see the dust particles floating through the haze.

I used my smartphone to secretly record the conversation, so that I wouldn’t miss a single detail. We sat down and sipped the coffee. When I inquired about the piano, he said that it belonged to his daughter. It was then that I stealthily hit record.

“…always good. She might not have had many friends, and people might have called her weird or creepy, but I know Sarah was always good at heart. She just loved that piano of hers. I got it for her as a gift for her eighteenth birthday. She said that she always wanted to learn how to play piano, so I decided to help her fulfill that dream of hers. I’ll always remember that smile she had when I gave the piano to her that day.

But one day, everything changed. I answered the door to see two police officers standing in front of me. They said that my daughter is wanted for murder! My sweet daughter… wanted for murdering some poor soul. She wasn’t home at the time, but the police had a warrant to search the house. In her bedroom, they found a hidden photograph that she took of her victim. A couple hours later, I receive a phone call from the police department informing me that my daughter was killed. While being chased by the police, she fled into a busy street where she was hit by a truck. After I learned the truth about her, I just had to get rid of all her stuff. I was just so sad, confused, and angry, and I didn’t want any trace of her around here. So I sold all of her belongings in the garage sale. That’s when you bought the piano.”

Her father burst into tears. He reached into a drawer in the coffee table and pulled out a folder. He handed it to me and explained that it contained photographs and documents pertaining to her case. He added that he intended on burning them, but hasn’t yet for some reason.

I examined the photographs. One picture was a copy of the aforementioned photo that Sarah took of her victim. I have no clue why her father would keep this around. The victim in the photo was just a pile of mutilated body parts. I put the photo down almost instantly. I couldn’t look at that anymore. Next, I picked up the forensic photograph of Sarah after she was hit by the truck.

At this point, I am certain that Sarah was indeed the girl I’ve seen from the piano all these nights. I’m terrified that I’ve actually been haunted by a ghost this entire time. This also made me realize who I’ve become. Slaving away at something with no physical presence, night after night. I don’t think I’ve left the apartment in weeks. Enough is enough. I can no longer live like this. I’m destroying that god damn piano as soon as I get home.

[The entry continues at a later time, as evidenced by a slight change in handwriting and legibility.]

This could very well be my last message, so while I lay here, I’ll provide as much detail as I can. I pray that someone will find this journal. If you are reading this, BURN THAT PIANO. Do not let it leave your sight without destroying it, I beg you. It’s the only way to silence her forever.

I entered my apartment after stopping at the hardware store to buy an axe. When I entered the living room, I heard a high-pitched hum coming from the piano. This was not a sound that a piano made… it sounded similar to the feedback of a malfunctioning microphone. I saw the girl sitting on the bench, facing the piano, away from me, her head pointed downward in an unnatural position. As I approached her, the hum grew unbearably loud. I dropped my axe to put my hands on my ears, which ultimately didn’t help. I walked up to her from behind, removed my right hand from my ear and placed it on her shoulder, and shouted “stop!”

Suddenly, the humming stopped. The silence sent a chill down my spine.

She then turned her head around to face me.

What I saw will haunt me until I die. I don’t even want to write it down here.

I fell to the ground. When she turned around to face me, her face wasn’t the same as when we first met that night. Her flesh was decaying and falling off of her face like a corpse. Her once-sapphire-blue eyes were just two abyssal holes now. Her jaw dropped an unnatural distance, revealing her rotted mouth.

That wasn’t what frightened me the most. What frightened me the most is when she… it… spoke for the first time. Its voice was a simultaneous low frequency and high frequency, like when someone uses a computer to disguise their voice on television during an anonymous interview. It said to me four words that destroyed a part of me:

“Do you love me?”

That damn humming returned, louder than ever. I got off the floor as quickly as I could and careened toward my bedroom and locked the door. After I mustered as much courage as I could afford, I obtained the chest from under my bed that contained my father’s revolver. It’s still loaded. I know that I’m powerless against a ghost, but I will try and defend myself nonetheless.

I’m almost done. My hands are shaking. I can’t feel my legs as I lay on the floor against my bed. My vision is starting to blur. THAT FUCKING HUMMING.

I can hear it coming. Even if I survive this, I’m saving one bullet for myself. I can’t go on anymore after this. This is all I can write. God help me.

Credited to M. D. Norton