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The Ivory

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The ivory

They say that in downtown Chicago, a small bar on North Rush Street, the one that's always been a bar by one name or another, has been home to a joint called The Ivory for many years. In the early twenties, it opened and during the prohibition had served as a speakeasy.

The legend is that there was a beautiful woman who would always play the piano there. For hours on end she would play, never seeming to have to will, nor the notion, to stop. It was a cold night in Chicago. Sam Jacobs, aged twenty-seven, had sat coddling a drink like he had many nights before.

She was an enigma. He was infatuated. She had barely seemed to breathe, or show any signs of life other than her hands and body moving with the sounds. Her hands slid across the ebony and ivory keys she'd become so accustomed to. Her eyes, closed as usual, darted back and forth under their pale white lids. Her long black hair rolled down her slender, white back, caressing the bony prominences that showed just above the line of her long, flowing, black dress.

Her long, bony fingers moved back and forth in the dim, smoky light that filled the wooden carcass of a once bustling jazz club. Now, the seats around her were filled with nothing but old men, aging patrons, and down on their luck waitresses who were all aching for their next fix. Sam sat staring at her. He had been a low life gangster in a previous life. A life before the prohibition ended. He was now a drunkard. He sat in his booth, night after night, drinking his everything away, watching with discontented eyes.

She never once opened her eyes to look back at Sam. His heart felt a tug with every key she struck. The song that emanated from the pine box of the dusty old piano was beautiful, albeit tragic. It reminded Sam of something he couldn't quite place. Was it home? No. It was something more powerful, yet, his mind couldn't track it. He took another swill of scotch, and rubbed his chin, never flinching his gaze from her slender form. She continued to play, and Sam lit a cigarette. He inhaled deeply, then cleared his throat as he let the smoke escape his lungs.

Sam, for a moment, shifted his affixed gaze to a nearby window, and as if his behest had been ignored by some unknown gods, a snow began to fall. Sam scoffed at this, as he turned his gaze back to the pianist. He looked back to her in just enough time to catch her turning her head back to the piano, from offering a small glimpse at Sam. His heart began to pound. His mind leaped in every direction. Did she notice him? Was she looking at him? "No," Sam thought to himself. It's just your mind playing tricks again. He reached to finish his glass of scotch, but found it full again. Sam wasn't concerned by this. Instead he continued to watch. Sam felt his eyes beginning to get heavy.

"I should head home," he thought, taking in another long drag of his cigarette. It was barely even touched, aside from the two drags he had already taken.

"After this cigarette," he thought.

She continued to play, only this time, Sam caught her glance at him, although, Sam felt it odd, because her eyes were still closed. Was this Sam's mind playing another cruel trick on his heart? His eyes became heavier and heavier. He rubbed his eyes. Everything began to blur. He rubbed them vigorously, attempting to get some kind of clarity, but to no avail. His head slowly came to rest on the large wooden table at the booth he always sat at.

His scotch glass, now empty, and the ice cubes beginning to melt and pool water in the bottom, mixed with the yellow remnants of scotch. The darkness slowly creeped into his eyes, and slowly his brain, and finally, he passed into a deep sleep. The music she was playing still loud in his ears, or possibly, was it his mind, as loud as it was before the darkness creeped in. The music faded.

All was silent in Sam's mind. Silence and emptiness. He didn't hear it. He felt it. Suddenly, a light clicked on. It was the one above his head at the table he'd fallen asleep on. There was darkness all around. There was no light anywhere except from the single stained glass light hanging above his head. He lifted his head to see the windows. He began to panic, searching for something. What it was, he wasn't sure, but something. The windows had been long since packed under what seem like an infinite amount of snow. Sam wasn't cold, though. He looked at the ground, which was covered in a fine layer of dust. Suggesting the boards hadn't been walked on in some time. His heart began to thump.

"Relax," he heard a female voice, or was it male? He was unsure. It seemed like both. He thought about it, and he couldn't remember if he heard the voice or if he thought it.

"I've seen you in here night after night." He definitely was hearing it, and having it in his thoughts.

He looked up, and there she was. Eyes closed, looking down, her mouth subtly moving to infiltrate his mind and ears with the aggravatingly gentle words he heard. Her eyes were covered by a dark black hat with a veil. She was wearing a red jacket now, over her dress. She was wearing black gloves, and a long, slender cigarette dangled between her equally long and slender fingers.

"Do you know who I am?" she asked, looking at him with eyes still closed.

Sam had intense fear inside of him now, he could feel it in his heart, thumping at his breast, tearing at his ribcage, begging for the lump in his throat to open and let out the screams and wails that Sam was bottling up.

"The p-pianist..." He choked on his words.

"Yes," she mouthed again, the subtlety of it vanishing.

Sam could see her teeth, which were sharp. Inhumanly sharp. he felt his nails dig into his own hands curl and his nails dig into his pants, flesh and veins. His bones were shaking now. She noticed.

"Your fear" she said, moving the cigarette to her lips, which were lacquered in dark red lipstick.

"Is unfound," she continued. Sam's breath labored, and he stared at her.

"Why is... is that?" he asked, his grip on his own legs tighter with every word she spoke.

"I've done nothing to you, Samuel," she said, coyly.

"Not yet," she said with a deeper tone on the final words than any other uttered before, not moving her mouth.

She took another drag of the cigarette, and blew smoke from her nostrils in Sam's face. He had been a smoker for more than fifteen years, since the age of ten, but this smoke was thick, and heavy. Like a fire caused by mounds of oils, or old rubber tires. It clotted up his esophagus and clogged up his lungs. He suddenly felt very cold.

"You don't know what's happening to you, do you?" The horrid voice, which admittedly wasn't as horrid as he thought, was rather pleasant, but the grips of fear in which he was entangled made everything seem much worse.

He remained silent. She chuckled at how scared he was. Sam flinched, his hands rubbing back and forth a few times on his knees. Sam suddenly grasped the large wooden table and flipped it upwards, utilizing strength he didn't know he had. It clamored against the light, evaporating all traces of what once was, and enveloped the world in pitch blackness. She made a terrifying shrieking noise, mixed with, what sounded to Sam, like thousands of children screaming in agony.

Silence. No light. Sam began to breathe heavily. His panting was all he could hear. Slowly, but surely, a thumping began to appear within his inner ears. He tugged at them, begging the noise to stop. A loud click pierced the otherwise utter silence. A floodlight, perched high above Sam, higher than the roof the tavern once had clicked on. The light flooded the floor a few hundred feet away from him. Something was descending from the light. Sam squinted his eyes, and tried to focus on the item. He raised his hand to his brow, attempting to block out the light. He took a step forward, then another, and another until it turned into a brisk jog.

With every step a single piano key was pressed. It was louder than anything Sam had ever heard! Then faster to a full on sprint towards the item as it descended, still, what seemed like hundreds of feet above him. As he ran faster, the music picked up. It was growing louder! Sam ignored it. He pushed forward, running as fast as he could. The piano was playing so fast, any discernible tune didn't exist now. It was almost like one million keys were being pressed by one million fingers one million notes per millisecond. It was deafening. Sam's mind was being torn synapse from synapse with every mind-altering step.

And suddenly, all at once, it stopped. Sam reached his hand for the item, which was still blurry to him, but within his reach- WHAM- a large black mass slammed into his body, sending him flying backwards into the darkness. The object fell with a thick, resonating metal clang. The light blew out with a violent flash, and all that was left was a terrifying sound of children. Giggles at first.

"Where are you?!" Sam screamed, but it was more of a beg.

Silence. Darkness and silence. Then the sound of children returned. Now it was a little more worrying. The children seemed to be talking, hurriedly.

"Who are you!" Sam begged in vain, and the children disappeared again. Then they came back. This time frighteningly screaming. Horrifying pleas for help, and to make it stop.

WHAM! WHAM! in the darkness, a heavy mass slammed itself onto Sam twice, crushing him. Sam laid on the ground. Writhing in pain. Every bone in his body hurt, and the places where the mass had connected to his body were on fire. Every synapse in his brain was screaming for the pain to stop. He rolled, wincing for a while, as the screams of children dulled and distorted into a dark, twisted screeching sound, which was still childlike in nature. Sam forced himself to get to his feet, although every single atom and fiber of his being kept begging, and eventually demanding him not to. He ignored the demands of his feeble, badly broken body and moved forward, the thumping came back almost instantly. He tugged at his ears, only this time he realized it wasn't from within. A gnarling, twisted scraping sound began to form a few hundred feet away from Sam. It rapidly approached him. He fumbled in his pockets for his matches. He pulled out the box in the pitch blackness. The box seemed to slide open easily and Sam rushed his fingers inside to find a single match. His breath shook as his hands trembled as he put the chemical scented tip of the match to the striker. He inhaled deeply and sharply, as to not blow out the single source of light he had. He struck it and in a flare of fire, he could see all around him, but it wasn't what was in front of him that startled him. All that lay on the floor was an iron cross, very ornate with gold trimmings, jewels and sharp points at each tip, the trimmings shimmering in the little light the match produced. No, this isn't what shocked Sam, but what did was the millions of strands of something he couldn't describe, almost smoke, which all writhed at his feet. Behind him, she stood. She had transformed into a gigantic creature.

She was over twenty feet tall, with a centipede-like body, rotting flesh fell off of the bones that existed, and had a disfigured humanoid head. Her jaw hung loose, tendons and muscles stretching and snapping, simultaneously repairing themselves, almost detached from her head, but was capable of clamoring together to form speech. She had millions of strands of smoke-like hair that whisped over the scalelike formations on her back, down to the floor. Truly a nightmare, which was an amalgamation of all of Sam's fears. She looked down at him, with the same black eyes as before, only this time, they seemed to set Sam ablaze.

"So..." she gurgled in a tongue that was a close relative to Latin, yet Sam could understand entirely.

"This is the end," she continued, slamming her thorax down.

Sam dove quickly out of the way, landing next to the cross. She began to roar, and in a million different voices, all screaming a terrifying harmony she began to howl.

"I AM THE DARKNESS WITHIN, SAMUEL!" she shout-gurgled in the Latin derivative, picking her massive body up, and subsequently slamming it down again.

Sam, using every bit of energy he had, dodged it again.

"I have to keep moving... " he thought to himself.

"MOVE ALL YOU WANT, YOU CAN NEVER ESCAPE," she gurgled, rearing back, and exposing a heart which beat rapidly, oozing a black oil like substance.

Sam righted himself. Stood facing the beast.

"I WAS THERE, WHEN YOUR MOTHER COMMITTED SUICIDE! SHE BLAMED YOU FOR YOUR FATHER LOSING THE FARM!" the beast raged.

"WHEN YOUR FATHER BEAT YOU BECAUSE HE BLAMED YOU, AS WELL!" it continued as fires began to rage all around them.

"WHEN YOUR DAUGHTER WAS DYING, I WAS THE TINY SNICKER IN THE DOCTOR'S VOICE!" it cackled.

"THERE'S NOTHING WE CAN DO, YOU CAN'T AFFORD THE TREATMENTS!" the beast's voice transformed into the doctor who let Sophia slip away.

Sam's face twisted in horror. Fear. Sadness. Anger. Regret. He raised his hand, now holding the pointed cross. "I...AM...EVERYTHING YOU FEAR! I AM THE END! I AM THE FORGOTTEN, THE EVIL, THE DARK. THE UNHOLY ONE!" the beast managed to howl while rearing up on its hind quarters.

Sam rushed forward at the oil-pumping heart, with every intention of killing the beast. WHAM. A thick, heavy limb slammed him, throwing him yet again. Sam lay on the ground, dying. The beast cackled and gurgled, watching Sam die.

"Papa," a light, tiny voice spoke. Sam opened his dulling eyes.

"Papa, you have to keep moving," her voice said, as Sophia materialized next to Sam. She placed a single hand on Sam's chest, and life suddenly poured into him.

"Sophia," Sam muttered, tears filling his eyes.

"Go, Papa, there's no time," she said, vanishing.

He stood, filled with anger, and love from his daughter. He rushed again at the monster, jamming the iron cross into its heart, driving it all the way in, twisting it, writhing it, feeling the life fly from the hole he had torn in the coarse tissue, and the oil now covering his entire body. Warm, and acid-like, but reassuring. The beast howled into darkness, and grabbed Sam violently. It pulled him to its eyes, as it stumbled around the now inferno-lit cave. it looked into Sam's mind.

"You..." it whispered as its eyes again, set his soul ablaze.

It squeezed Sam's body in its massive claws, and every bone suffered a mind-numbing crackle. Organs ruptured, blood dripped from every orifice, every fissure in Sam's body leaked the crimson life from him. The beast gargled for air, and eventually the oil began to spill from its lips. It slammed down on its thorax, hurling Sam across the cave, and he landed next to the table. He stared up into the light hanging above the table, which was now on again. He began to snicker as the last bit of energy he had he used to turn his head, to see the beast coughing out its final breath. Sam closed his eyes, the final shred of life leaving his tattered body.

All was silent in Sam's mind. Silence and emptiness. He didn't hear it. He felt it. Suddenly, a light clicked on. It was the one above his head at the table he'd fallen asleep on. There was darkness all around. There was no light anywhere except from the single stained glass light hanging above his head. He lifted his head to see the windows. He began to panic, searching for something. What it was, he wasn't sure, but something he could recognize. The windows had been long since packed under what seem like an infinite amount of snow. Sam wasn't cold, though. He looked at the ground, which was covered in a fine layer of dust. Suggesting the boards hadn't been walked on in some time. His heart began to thump.

"Relax." He heard a female voice, or was it male? He was unsure. It seemed like both. He thought about it, and he couldn't remember if he heard the voice or if he thought it.

"I've seen you in here night after night." He definitely was hearing it, and having it in his thoughts.

He looked up, and there she was. Eyes closed, looking down, her mouth subtly moving to infiltrate his mind and ears with the aggravatingly gentle words he heard. Her eyes were covered by a dark black hat with a veil. She was wearing a red jacket now, over her dress. She was wearing black gloves, and a long, slender cigarette dangled between her equally long and slender fingers.

"And I won't let you get out now, " she said, looking deep into his eyes, unhinging her jaw.

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