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The Upright Piano

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I moved into the house not too long ago. My first mistake was leaving that forsaken piano. You see, the house formerly belonged to Margaret Mackey. In my time, Margaret was famous for her talent with the piano. She was known throughout my town for her many classical pieces, but never truly appreciated. People didn’t like talent. I can’t explain why people are this way. Somewhere along the line something changed. I don’t know what but something did change. And ever since, nothing has been the same.

Margaret knew this. She didn’t care that she was dying out. She cared that the world was. In the short time before her disappearance, Margaret was reported to be in a different state. Margaret didn’t know many people, but the few she did—her sister, her landlord, her neighbor, they all said the same thing: Margaret was depressed. She always possessed an unfathomable look of deep sorrow that put dread into the hearts of others. Before her actual disappearance, she seemed anxious, and right before it, she seemed to be almost accepting of her fate.

As you might have already gathered, Margaret went missing. It was as if she had vanished into thin air. One moment she was there, the next moment she was gone. Authorities didn’t do much investigating; they assumed she just ran off somewhere, as did her relatives. Big mistake.

I arrived at my new home, suitcase in hand. I was ready to unpack and settle in. I had finally bought my own house. I was so proud.

Because of the previous ‘happenings’ at the house, it came at a cheap price. The upright piano remained. I considered removing it at one point but my laziness overtook me and I told myself it would serve as an interesting conversation piece when I brought a girl home. Even though, thinking to myself now, the conversation that went along with this was probably the least bit arousing.

“Hey, do you play the piano?”

“No, but the former owner who went missing left it behind. She was insane.”

Everything was normal at first. I went to a club the first night. I wasn’t used to the suburban scene. I drove out to the city and met a woman there. We drove home shortly after and we were lying in bed (just some harmless foreplay, mind you) when the music began.

It must have been midnight. I was so caught up in the moment, I must not have been keeping track of time. But the music was loud and clear and it echoed through the house as if the song were the house itself.

The woman immediately jumped up. And after accusing me of playing a sick prank of some sort on her, she stormed out in anger. I stomped down the staircase, wanting to find the culprit. I don’t know what I was expecting to find. Perhaps some kids were playing a prank on me. But I quickly dismissed this theory. The music being played could not have been produced by some snot nosed child who was seeking to get a laugh out of causing trouble. This music was… beautiful—quite somber, actually. It went from a gentle lullaby to a passionate ballad. After closing my eyes to listen better with my ears, I recognized the song as belonging to the infamous Margaret Mackey. It was her last piece, the one she wrote right before her disappearance.

I didn’t know much about pianos, so in the next few minutes I found myself foolishly groping around in the dark at the piano, mumbling to myself: “Where’s the off button on this thing?”

The song seemed to stop after 5 minutes. After one play, the music died down and the sound quickly faded back into oblivion. I didn’t think much of it, to be honest. I was only angry that the darn piano had prevented me from getting laid. I went to bed as if it were any other night. I didn’t give a second thought to the possible phantom piano player on my first floor.

Days after the same occurrence of that song waking me up in the middle of the night, I stayed up late one day, or night rather, and at exactly midnight, the music began again. It was the same song. Only this time, it was a bit more passionate. There was more rhythm with each hit of the keys. More energy given to the C,D,E,F,G,A,B which all perfectly formed into the song. I didn’t understand much about piano, but I knew, this was talent.

For a moment I wondered if this was all in my head. It was impossible for a piano to just randomly start off in the middle of the night. It couldn’t have been real. I went searching through the house—for a sign, for a note, for anything that might reveal why this was happening and how I could stop it.

I didn’t find anything worth noting but about halfway through my search I found an old diary hidden under some loose wooden floor boards. Margaret Mackey’s signature was written on the cover. There was something so elegant, so beautiful, so graceful about it. It was if she came out of a different century. Even her writing was dainty script neatly written on the lines. I’m ashamed to admit it, but as I was used to reading print, it was hard for me read at first. But I could make out words and sentences. And as I put them together they resembled the ramblings of a mad man. Her writings only got more and more depressing. She would speak of the world collapsing, the fall of civilization, incessant voices in her head getting louder and louder and as I read this my mind began to fill with information with every flip of the page. I got to end of the book, panting from mental exhaustion. That was when I read her last entry.

This one wasn’t as neat. It was rushed, written in print. Her words hung off the straight line. I read as she claimed she was overwhelmed with life. How she couldn’t take it anymore. How she wanted only to disappear. How she wanted to disappear into the piano. That was when it hit me.

I gently placed the book back where it belonged, and slowly ascended the steps that led to the first floor. The music was still playing, nearing its end. I stood at its heel, waiting and almost wishing the song would never end. It was much stronger than the previous nights. You could sense the raw emotion in every key stroke, the passion, the desperation of the player. It made my heart sink into my stomach. The song ended with a final ‘clink’ of a key that seemed to last forever and I found myself hovering over the piano, hand on latch. I decided to do it quickly. I might as well get it over with. I opened the piano and revealed what was underneath.

Inside, was a woman. Margaret Mackey to be exact. Her dark hair was wrapped around her face, her figure was frail and she appeared to be emaciated. The smell of waste wafted through the air causing me to hunch over and heave in disgust. I managed to puke but I was still shocked as I looked upon the horrific sight. She was tucked underneath the inner workings of the piano, at an unnatural angle, and her fingers had rough indentations in them as if she had been plucking away at the piano strings.

Her head fell to the side and I could have sworn she moved. I backed up in fear. And I’ll admit, at this point I ran out of the house like a little bitch. All of my previous nonchalance was gone as I ran screaming, flailing my hands through the air, panting in exhaustion. I must have looked insane to the neighbors. No wonder they called the police.

Thankfully the authorities arrived. I could tell they thought I was crazy when I explained my situation. But when I showed them in and they a got a hold of the dead body of Margaret Mackey lying in my piano they appeared just as bewildered.

I never shook the feeling of dread that I got when I saw the body. Even after authorities claimed that Margaret’s body had been disposed of. That she had nestled her way into the piano in a fit of depression and I had nothing to worry about. They didn’t care. They didn’t care about Margaret or me. I threw out the piano. I wrecked it with a hammer. I didn’t want to see that thing ever again.

I don’t see it anymore. Yet why do I still hear the continuous song? Why does it ring in my head every single moment of my life? Why do I have the urge to stab scissors into my ear drums just to make the song stop? Why does it haunt me? I don’t know. But I know Margaret was right. The world is dying.

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