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My grandpa was a good man. Served as a soldier, like a lot of old guys did, married a beautiful wife, and carried on his family name. I remember the times I’d spend with him. Sometimes, when my mom and dad wanted to get away from us kids for a while, grandpa would always have a smile on his face when he saw me. I couldn’t help but smile with him. It made me feel loved… warm, in a strange sense. It would rain a lot where my grandpa lived. He and I would sit outside, under the hood of the awning, listening to the rain. That’s it. That’s all we would do. We just listened to every drop, every speck hit the roof, and the deck. I enjoyed those times. I miss them. But as good as my grandpa was on the surface… something changed him.
I was about fourteen at the time, and my grandpa asked if I could help him clean out the attic of his house. The attic door hadn’t been opened for years, maybe decades even. My grandpa was planning to sell a lot of the stuff up there, mostly old clothes, lamps, a coat rack or two. I was dusting things off with him, both of us now being in the attic space, when I noticed that my grandpa was holding something. He stood quiet, and still, looking down at an object in his hand.
“Whatcha got there, granddad?” I asked him.
He turned to notice me, “Looks like a little box. I don’t remember seeing this up here.”
He then gave it to me to look at. For the most part, it seemed like any ordinary box. I began to mess around with it, when all of a sudden it opened up. It was a square, cubed music box, but… an odd one. Instead of something like a ballerina, or an animal as the turning figure, there was instead… nothing. No figure, not even a turning screw.
“Well that’s a damn shame. What’s that paper say?” Grandpa pointed to the paper in the box.
It took me a second to notice. I looked down and picked up the paper from the box. Grandpa took the box out of my hand as I unfolded the paper and began to read it.
I read aloud, “He waits as long as he needs to.
"But be quick so he doesn’t hear you.
"Ask him a question, he will tell.
"He will make you into a hollow shell.
"His telling is easy to hear and understand.
"Beware the song of the Music Man.”
“The hell was that supposed to mean?” Grandpa asked.
“Dunno. Is this grandma’s?” I asked.
“Shit if I know, sonny. Come on, put the paper back in there and we’ll see if anyone wants to buy it,” Grandpa said as he continued to sift through old junk from before.
I thought the music box was odd, but nothing more of it. The garage sale that day went well, but the music box went unsold. Not a single person touched it, let alone looked at it. All throughout that entire day, not a single person toyed with it, not even a little kid played with it. I kept giving it a glance here and then, but couldn’t shake the feeling that something more was a part of that box. The day was good, but the future said different.
About ten years later, my grandma passed away from ovarian cancer. Grandpa was hit hard the most. After the funeral had ended, he stood at the foot of my grandma’s grave, looking down, not shedding a tear. The rest of us cried, but he just stared on. After the funeral, I never heard from my grandfather for months, going on a year. I tried calling him at least once a week, but I never got an answer. My dad went over to his house to make sure he was still alive, which he was, but he never came outside the door to show dad how he was doing.
My dad kept doing this until one day… grandpa didn’t say anything. Dad rushed into the house, running up the stairs to my grandpa’s room to see a sight worth forgetting if I could. My dad called me up and told me the news. I went over as fast as I could to see my grandpa… at least the parts I could recognize. Grandpa committed suicide with a twelve gauge shotgun in the mouth on his bed. Brains and blood were littered everywhere. The sight of it was more than what my stomach could take. Police came in, took the body, and got statements from my dad and me. Everyone eventually cleared out of the room, leaving myself alone with the bloodstained bed. I dropped to my knees, crying, curling my face in my hands. It had started to rain that day too.
My eyes caught something familiar in their sight. The music box. I stood up and walked over to it. It had a note sitting under it. I wiped off the tears on my face and opened the note. It was my grandpa’s handwriting, but it only had one single line:
I took the music box home with me that same day. I opened the box again, and took out the paper from before. The lines remained the same, but I noticed there also were more words on the back of it. I turned it around and began to read out loud what sounded like a ritual.
“If you wish to summon him, first you will need a room with space. Then you will need to divide the room into two halves with salt. Then you must make a circle of salt near the center line. This will determine which side you will own. Next you must balance the darkness and light in the room. Your side may be as lit as you see forth whether bright, or faint, but you must have a light on you, or around you. The other side of the room must remain dark. It is best to do this in the dead of night. This will be his side. You're not allowed to break the salt mid line, unless invited. Once you have done all of the tasks above, you can begin to ask him a question.
"Ask any question you wish, he will always answer. Open the music box and write down a question for him to answer. Fold and place the paper into the box and wind it up, while also placing the box inside the circle of salt. Wait patiently for the music to end, as the Music Man will then be able to answer your question, then the music box will start playing its music once again, signaling that he answered your question. The box will return to its previous position to await for you to see your answer. Repeat this again in order to get more answers, but remember this: The more you ask, the more to know… he will grow.”
I didn’t hesitate for a second. An urge inside me told to me to get to work. I wanted to know. That’s what drove me. Knowledge. I didn’t care what the price, I had to know. I cleaned out a guest room and did everything as the paper said. Waited until about two in the morning to start asking. I walked into the room. It was quiet, dead silent. My side had a couple of lamps while the other was pitch black, pretty much dividing the room into two even halves. The salt circle was visible, but faint. My best guess is that it acted like a portal for him, allowing him to peer into my side, but only for a split second to answer the question.
I opened the music box and folded a piece of paper with my first question, "Are you here?" I took the music box, winding it up, and placed it into the salt circle. I took a seat on the floor and just stared at the box. My heart sounded loud in the silence, and I could feel a bead of sweat dripping down my face. The music lullaby of the box was creepy to say the least. At first it started quite normal, childlike even, but then it slowed and the pitch grew lower, and lower, to the point where it sounded like it was… laughing, in a way.
The music box started up again. I was surprised, but shocked in fear. Something moved in the darkness on the other side of the room. I couldn’t get a good look at it, but I could tell that a figure was now sitting on the other side, not moving or twitching an inch. Couldn’t see if it was human, but it was a shape, and it was pretty big, at least six-feet-tall sitting. I sucked up my fear, and slowly walked over to the music box, I bent down, still looking in the shadows at the figure. I picked up the box and slowly started heading back. I took my seat, opened the box, and saw that a new piece of paper had been placed in the box. I unfolded the paper and took in a big gasp of air. I got my answer. He was here. The Music Man was with me.
I tore off a piece of the new paper and asked another question, "How much do you know?" I repeat what I did before, placing the box back into the center of the salt ring. This time, I could see a black arm reach out for the music box. The arm didn’t look human to me. It was too thin and skinny, but pure black. It also was boney with long fingers, at least seven inches long. The box was placed back in the circle, the music playing. I walked over again, keeping my eyes on the figure, but also beginning to notice subtle movement in the shadows. He didn’t seem to be alone, or were those instead… more arms? Legs? Tentacles? Hell if I knew. I sat down and opened the box again. I got another answer: "Everything."
I tore off another piece, and wrote down another question to test his claim: "Why do I like rainy days?" Again, I repeat what I did before. The same arm reaches over, takes the box, and places it back in the circle. I started to get a little more… comfortable. It’s odd, even insane, but it was a feeling I couldn’t deny. I opened the box, took out the paper, and dropped the box entirely. I made a break for the door, slamming it shut behind me, and running straight to my room, locking the door behind me. I sat on my bed, shaking. The answer shook me inside, shook me like an abused child, like a cold, harsh fear. I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. In the morning, I mustered up some courage, and went into the room where I was asking the Music Man questions. I walked over to the music box, picking up the piece of paper next to it. The paper still read the same: "Grandpa."
The next night went the same. This time I could not only see when he was here, but also feel when he arrived. I wrote down another question: "What are you?" I took the music box over to the circle. I waited. And waited. And waited for what seemed minutes without end. Then the music box sounded off once again. I took it, and sat back down, opening it. The answer read, "You have no word for me, therefore, I am nothing you have ever seen." I asked another question, establishing a sort of rhythm to the whole process.
Question: Was there a God?
Answer: There have been many, but only before.
Question: Is there an afterlife?
Answer: Yes, there is one.
Question: How long have you been alive?
Answer: Your question is worded incorrectly. I was never alive.
Question: Why do I keep asking you questions?
Answer: You’re afraid.
The last answer got to me. “Afraid? What am I afraid of?” Then I saw the arm from before reach out, and tap the inner circle of salt. Curious, I asked that same question, waiting for a response. He answered back normally, and I took a look in the box: Death. Suddenly, I began to feel cold. I began to feel sad, depressed even. I felt as if the world had turned its back on me. I felt like my family saw me as a failure, including my grandfather. I thought about how disappointed he’d be if he were looking at me right now.
Question: Did my grandpa speak to you?
Question: What did he ask you?
Answer: About his wife.
Question: Can I speak to him?
Answer: The dead can’t speak without a mouth.
Question: Why am I afraid?
Answer: You wish to know, but regret being told. You fear me because you wish to know me. You are the reason you are afraid, like a mirror of fear, I simply hold it.
Tears began to roll down my face again, I pulled out the paper, and wrote down one more question: Can you take it away?
He answered back, "Yes."
“Then do it,” I said out loud again.
The hand stretched out again, tapping the floor.
“Bullshit!” I threw the music box after winding it up to his side of the room. I was expecting it to hit the wall, but I never heard a sound. Instead, I heard what sounded like a twisted chuckle. The music box silenced, and was placed in the circle again. I went over to it, opened it, and read the answer out loud.
“Come to me,” the answer said.
I looked into the darkness, making out a massive figure standing up, gesturing something to me. I held the music box in my hand, and began to slowly walk into the darkness. The lamps on my side were beginning to burn out, as darkness began to slowly fill the room like a cloud of poison. The closer, and closer I got to the Music Man, I began to feel numb. My entire body felt like it was fading away, being taken away. I didn’t feel sad, or depressed anymore, nor did I feel fear. Instead, I only felt numb, if you can even feel numbness without anything else for reference. I felt apathetic. I had the knowledge of the Music Man. The only thing left were my arms, but even they weren’t mine anymore.
They were his.