These are the most testing times the human race have faced since World War II. This time the enemy is unseen, an enemy so powerful it’s forcing many of us to retreat back into our houses. It’s here that people will try to continue to live as normal a life as they can and it’s here that the wonderful art of storytelling may blossom. Be it, young children sitting in front of a parent, or a person sadly on their own listening to the radio, stories will be spread and remembered, to be told to future generations once this horrible virus has faded.
I wanted to be able to share some stories with the fiends of Kendall Reviews, stories to help people get through these difficult times.
If you have a tale you’d like to share then please contact me via email
Today’s tale is a wonderfully powerful tale from D.T. Griffith.
Cacophony In B-Minor
Duane sat on the cast-iron bench along the river walk eating his salami and provolone wrap; his usual lunch from the deli around the block. He studied the passersby. The derelicts and junkies, the corporate-casual staffers and well-dressed executives, each passing one another on the red brick path seemingly unaware of their fellow human beings, equally oblivious to the scenic expanse of the harbor head in their periphery.
He watched and listened to a woman carrying a conversation through a barely visible earpiece, her phone presumably tucked away in her purse. Most of the other walkers stared at the cool liquid crystal glow of their phone screens glancing up on brief occasions to avoid obstacles and other people. No talking, just fast-paced staring and typing messages with thumbs, or playing a lame touchscreen game, he mused. How can they not talk? Talk assholes, he wanted to shout. He imagined ripping the phones from their hands and chucking them in the water.
A jarring noise and a coarse “hey!” broke his focus. Further down the walkway a homeless man in a wheelchair slowly approached. He held out a paper coffee cup filled with change, rattling it enough to prevent his obscurity as the women and men in suits whisked by. One leg was missing below the knee; a shredded blanket that might have been white at one time obscured the other leg. A cardboard sign propped on his lap read HOMELESS IRAQ VET, PLEASE HELP. The man yelled “hey” at those who ignored him. Duane laughed a little making no sound other than the air forced through his nostrils. That sales tactic doesn’t work, he thought. Idiot.
Duane returned his focus to the rush of the cobalt blue river flowing into the harbor. It soothed the otherwise chaotic environment of train whistles, dense traffic, idling delivery trucks, and construction vehicles erecting the latest mixed-use oversized development overlooking the river the city of Stamford had suddenly become known for. It soothed that same inner turmoil that had been building over the past few years. It was the only redeeming thing left in this city that barely resembled the place he chose to call home six years earlier when he accepted the software team lead position at RTI Solutions. He found a way to cope with the noise, to refine it, to contribute to the sounds of the city in his own masterful way.
These collective sounds would become Duane’s music that evening, as he followed his routine of converting his experiences and observations into a new piano composition each night after work. His girlfriend Chelsea might join him if she wants, but Duane really wasn’t in the mood. She always wanted to talk, which meant a lot of listening. Then bed. She was all over him every night she came over, salivating like a high-strung dog about to be fed when they kissed. He was bored with the routine, though. He would rather study his collection of paintings haphazardly hung around the apartment purchased from street artists during his New York City excursions, while gnawing on his takeout dinner. Meals should be routine, not relationships. He realized Chelsea had become a routine. He needed change.
A young tan woman in business-standard black skirt and white blouse with low heels broke Duane’s focus on the water as she came into full view. She skipped around a couple of kids on skateboards apparently ditching school. She smiled at Duane as she approached. Her skin-tone and physical features reflected his biracial appearance. He rejoiced in the idea of a kindred soul making this unexpected synchronistic appearance and smiled back. She stopped directly in front of him, an overly assertive position, he thought, but he welcomed it.
“Hey, I love your blond braids,” she said, “Who does them for you?” Duane smiled again and pointed to his mouth shaking his head side to side. She giggled. “Are you playing coy? I’ve had my eye on you these past few weeks.” Duane grinned and felt his cheeks flush. “I always see you out here.”
Duane lost himself in her smile, her perfect bright teeth, her hazel eyes, and her pronounced cheekbones. He nodded and gave her a thumbs-up.
She smirked and narrowed her eyes. “Didn’t your mama ever teach you it’s nice manners to return a compliment from a beautiful girl?”
He smiled and held up his one moment finger and pulled a small notepad and pen from his sport jacket pocket. He scribbled I can’t speak and held it up to her.
He wrote I’m mute – no voice and held it up again.
She immediately stepped backwards. “Oh … uh … I’m so sorry to bother you,” she said, her hazel eyes shifting left and right, “uh, I should go now, lunch is almost over. I hope you get better soon.” She turned and stumbled onto one knee as her shoe slipped from her heel. Duane leaned forward to help her up. “I’m fine,” she said as she quickly looked away from him. She fixed her shoe and hurried off.
Nothing new about this scenario. So freaking close. He wanted to scream, if that was ever an option. He watched the woman disappear around a building in the distance. I really, really hate humanity, he thought. Stress levels rose, no river watching would relax him now. What was he to do? Chase after her and express his disdain through body language and scribbled notes?
Since his earliest childhood memories people treated him differently when they learned he was born without vocal chords, as if that was something for them to fear. He considered wearing a sign around his neck for anytime he was in public, reading: I’M MUTE. I’M NOT SICK. He thought about adding LET’S TALK! to the sign just to further twist that dagger into their guts. Hell, maybe carry a pistol he could pop into his mouth to shut down this ignorance for good next time some xenophobe treats him badly.
He packed his notepad and pen into his jacket and gathered the remains from his lunch for the trashcan. It was time to return to the office anyway, to babysit his team of know-it-all twenty-something programmers. He walked in the direction of his office building a few steps. Screw them, he thought, I’ve had enough shit for today. He sent an email from his smartphone to his team telling them he was feeling sick and going home. They can do the job themselves. Hell, he didn’t even need to be there anymore. RTI Solutions were only keeping him on to fulfill some disability legal quota.
Duane wandered around downtown angry with himself and everyone who ever disapproved of him. He spotted a poster for a high school play called The Whisperer hanging in the large plate glass window of a sporting goods store. He wanted to shout profanities or make some kind noise in disgust, but could only muster a hoarse exhale. The liquor store across the street caught his attention. He hadn’t touched alcohol since the last office Christmas party, and here it was late September. Chelsea wasn’t a drinker, at least not since her early twenties when she nearly died of alcohol poisoning at a UCONN dorm party. He purchased a small bottle of Kentucky – he liked the devilish face on the label. It had wild medusa hair and a long canine snout. Badass, he thought, fits my new personality. Small sips turned into full gulps as he walked up and down the main street, staring past other pedestrians who appeared not to notice him. Yeah, I’m silent alright, he projected onto a woman carrying a few Macy’s shopping bags staring past him, I’m invisible, bitch!
The world never understood him, he complained to Chelsea in emails and texts. His talents, his skills, his amazing piano playing, yet he was stuck working a job he hated. His sweaty grip on the bottle slid as he forced a mouthful or more of bourbon down his throat. The liquid’s warmth soon felt like acid corroding the soft tissues of his esophagus. Duane stopped in the middle of the street, wobbling as he stared at the sky. He wanted to shout “why god” knowing he could never be heard.
His phone chimed. A message from his boss: “Hope U feel better. See U in the AM???”
Yeah, idiot, learn to communicate, Duane wanted to respond with, but he wrote: “Thanks. Let me see how I’m feeling in the morning. Good night.”
Duane staggered to the sidewalk and threw the empty devil-faced bottle at the theater poster he saw earlier. It bounced off the plate glass window and fell to the sidewalk with an uneventful thud remaining intact. Goddamned thing! He kicked it into the street, wincing as the side of his big toe made contact through the leather dress shoe. The bottle bounced off a delivery truck’s tire and the driver shouted something unintelligible in return. Duane picked up the bottle and smashed it on the truck’s grill. The release felt good. He jogged away as he heard the driver yelling muffled expletives.
The phone chimed again, this time it was Chelsea: Want to hang out tonight? I was thinking the shooting range would be fun.
No. Bad day. Feeling sick, he replied. He hated the shooting range; too loud with a bunch of men showing off their testosterone levels by the sizes of their guns. Chelsea loved the idea of being a hero, walking into a convenience store and stopping a crime in progress. Ridiculous, he thought, she’s always trying to rescue everybody.
Oh, poor baby, she wrote back. How about I come see you in the morning and make you breakfast?
Prefer lunchtime, sleeping in. See you tomorrow. He pressed send and pocketed his phone. It was time to walk over to the deli to pick up dinner, just a few long blocks. It would help sober him up.
Crying and punching walls felt right; self-loathing being his go-to emotion since age six. Too embarrassing, he realized, just stay calm. He forced an inebriated stoic face, one he thought reminiscent of the neoclassical stone friezes he admired on the early twentieth-century buildings that populated midtown Manhattan. He wanted to be a frieze watching over Central Park South. An eternal life of watching, nothing to worry about as long as the building continued to stand. No taxes, no life or death, no asshole people to contend with. Actually, a gargoyle, he surmised, even better than a frieze. He bought his sandwich and left the deli for home.
The autumn sun had cast a vermillion streak across the western sky, visible between blocks of three- and five-story buildings and the ominous stratus clouds that had consumed the dim heavens for most of the day. The old door into the brownstone opened with a grunt and squeal, and Duane entered the cold foyer slamming the door shut behind him.
He retrieved his mail and walked up two winding flights to his studio apartment, dropped his workbag next to the door, tossed his jacket on the recliner, and sat down at his Baldwin upright. His hot pastrami sandwich wrapped in waxed paper, which he propped on the bench next to him, warmed the stagnant air of the former Industrial Era manufactory space. He played a mid-range D major chord with his right hand, a simple triad he played each note in succession beginning the cycle with F# while pressing the sustain pedal with his right foot. He thought about these notes, the novice yet dramatic melody they hinted at, as he connected them to the sights, sounds, and smells that started with his lunch on the river walk. The pleasant sense of calm he felt as the crisp breeze rolled off the harbor from Long Island Sound, the climactic rise as he recalled the tan woman approaching him, and the rage that followed.
Duane incorporated a few more notes transitioning into the relative key of B minor. It all made sense now. He pressed record on his digital recorder resting atop the piano and started over.
He never wrote notations, rather he recorded each piece and titled them with a phrase describing the scene and key it was in. Once he created a piece he never forget it. Hundreds, maybe a thousand of compositions, he figured, occupied the infinite crevices and wrinkles of his brain, each furrow formed upon another, an infinitesimal fractal reaching cellular level. He could fully recall any composition at will at anytime he had the opportunity to perform for an audience. Though he rarely had an audience, not even Chelsea. Her only interests were true-crime TV shows and bed when she was over.
I need to talk, he kept thinking as he played. Duane’s left hand led with a melodic base line in the key of D matching the rapid pace of the suits he watched on the river walk earlier that day. A bright melody formed in the upper range, with intentionally off-key notes to represent the derelicts traipsing by, shoulders slumped, slouched knit hats, and pants hanging too far below their wastes. I need to talk. Then came the section of the woman who approached him, the relative harmonic B minor transition signaled the abrupt change of mood, building to a climax as she was so rudely put off by his inability to speak and rushed away.
Endorphins screamed through his brain shooting electric pulses down his arms to his fingertips. His throat itched. Then silence. No sustained notes. He cleared his throat attempting to stop the itching, the only sound in the exposed brick studio apartment, the only sound he could make from his larynx. The itch grew worse. He closed his eyes, contemplating the ending. I need to talk! Shadowy forms moved across the darkness of his eyelids, morphing in and out of each other, taking on swirls and dotted patterns with hints of red and green. He focused on these images for what felt like hours, watching a face form, a long narrow head with tendrils in place of hair, like a paintbrush. The tendrils writhed with their own lives, like the snakes bound to Medusa’s head. Long bony arms protruded from the amorphous tones of black, slender fingers stretched and curled. A hand reached down the figure’s throat and tore out glistening flesh, bits of tissue flapped as the hand extended the offering to Duane’s mouth. A low voice hissed, “talk” and shoved the flesh into Duane’s mouth.
Duane flinched and opened his eyes. Twenty-three seconds had passed according to the recorder. Stupid imagination, he chastised himself, I need to talk, not have drunken daydreams! He slammed the keys with both hands, pounding B diminish chords on the Baldwin’s lowest octave. Images of nine-foot waves crashing over the downtown seawall raced through his mind, the Medusa-headed thing nowhere to be seen. His right hand gyrated between notes accentuating the chord while transitioning back to an aggressive D major. Lightning illuminated the orange-gray stratus clouds, as the river walk flooded, carrying away those awful people he saw earlier that day. A ground strike smashed the rude tan woman into a tree before the waves consumed her and the riptide carried her out to sea. Both hands met in the middle of the keyboard and held the last notes, another clashing B diminished. He held the sustain pedal letting the notes resonate for a good ten or so seconds as he dropped the fallboard. Ecstasy warmed his body taking the place of the bourbon in his blood; the rage subsided. The storm was over n his mind. His throat felt hot. He needed to piss.
Duane stood up and leaned over to read the digital recorder and pressed STOP. Five minutes and eleven seconds. Fast one, he thought as he staggered to the bathroom, it seemed longer.
“Talk Duane,” a voice boomed in the bathroom, breaking Duane’s gaze as he stood over the toilet. He spun around confirming he was alone in the small space and decided the bourbon must have hit him harder than he thought.
He returned to the piano, grabbed the recorder in one hand, the bagged sandwich in the other, and retrieved a Coke from the fridge. How am I going to eat with my throat on fire, he wondered as he shuffled his way across the small apartment. He dropped into his recliner and turned on the TV. He entered his dead-to-the-world zone taking small cautious bites of his sandwich.
A series of polyphonic low voices screamed, “Duane speak you mind” with an abrupt stop; a wall of horrific noises, each voice carrying its own agonizing burden and melancholy. He sat forward dropping his sandwich in his lap and glanced around the apartment. What the hell is this? Duane stood up and circled the living space looking for anything that might be foreign or out of place, like a hidden speaker planted as a joke by someone. There wasn’t anyone who would do this, but he still had to look. He searched his bedroom and bathroom, checked his clothing and linen closets. All seemed fine.
The sounds were gone; a whacky reality show voiceover emitted from the TV erased any chance of pure silence. He began to feel dizzy and fell back into his overstuffed recliner. He wanted to watch a few TV shows while he transferred his latest recording to the laptop, as he did every night before bed. A half hour and he dozed off.
Duane abruptly woke to the recording of gunshots outside a courthouse on the late night edition of the news followed by a series of screams and shouts. His throat burned and his head throbbed, he reached for the Coke can on the side table and found it empty; he flung it at the window. Ice water, his mental voice commanded. Duane’s joints ached as he pushed his weight off the recliner and stumbled into the kitchenette. A few large gulps of the soothing liquid and he let out a sigh. Wait a minute… he stared at the glass he was holding. Did I just hear something? He forced air out of his trachea and heard a light moan that resembled a person’s voice with laryngitis. How is this possible?
He ran into the bathroom, turned on the lights over the mirror, opening his mouth wide. A screaming red gullet, looked like a virus. He tried to sigh again while holding his mouth open, a raspy croaking sound rolled out. This can’t be … after all these years. He tried again; the dry reddened soft tissues tightened causing him to choke. The convulsions threw his head forward, icy pain radiated from his forehead. His stomach tingled anxiously. He could not make sense out of this, his vocal chords never formed. Spontaneous generation? His esophagus felt hotter and throbbed from stomach to neck as an acidic fluid worked its way up to his mouth. He tried to swallow hard; it only escalated the pain and he gagged. He drank handfuls of water form the sink. The sensation grew worse. Choking, coughing, he felt his digestive system working against him, pushing the contents of his stomach, the acidity, the water he just drank, the pressure built behind a blockage in his neck. He felt a pain he remembered from childhood when he tried to swallow a piece of steak that was much too big. He wasn’t breathing. He threw his head forward over the sink as hard as he could. He stared at the drain using all of the energy he could muster to expel whatever was making him choke. A purple-black liquid dripped into the sink basin. He threw his whole upper body back and heaved forward again slamming his forehead on the mirror. What he could only compare to regurgitating a baseball-sized smooth river stone, he released the blockage with a loud grunt. He collapsed and regained his breathing.
His button-down shirt and khakis were stained in the purple-black liquid. The liquid resembled molasses, but burned to touch. He stripped down to his underwear as he regained his stance. The sink was splattered in the dark viscous liquid, but he did not see the substance that created the blockage. It must have broken down, leaving the thick trail leading to the drain. Intense pressure flared behind his face and in the back of his head. Every sinus cavity felt clogged and heavy. The walls wobbled every time he turned his head, his reflection in the mirror wavered. His face distended. Duane cupped his hands to drink some more water from the sink, fighting to maintain his balance.
For what took maybe five minutes, maybe five hours, he found his way to bed. A fever felt imminent and he closed his eyes.
He woke. The fever passed, throat felt cooler. Strong winds rattled the windowpanes, the rain was heavier. Insides feel like hell. He emitted a faint groan. Elated by this sudden vocalization phenomenon, despite the recent pain and sickness, he imagined other possibilities.
The piano. The composition. He needed to play it again.
Duane rolled out of bed and staggered out to the Baldwin feeling the drop in room temperature on his mostly bare body. The walls and furniture moved out of sync with his body. The blinding lights were still on, the TV blared a Three’s Company episode.
“Soo…stoooo…st…stooo…stooo…pit weeee-huns,” Duane said as he turned off the TV and some of the lights.
His balance had improved enough to get around the apartment, though his sensory was off. The headache had mellowed. He placed his right hand on the keyboard as he sat on the bench. The undulating D major triad enveloped the room shutting out the wall of noise created by the heavy rain. His left hand joined as he transitioned to the key of B minor replaying the composition he had created some hours ago. He incorporated new flourishes as he ran both hands up and down the full range.
He played harder, heavier, more passionate than ever before. Ten minutes passed, or thirty – he was guessing. It didn’t matter. This was his future, the solution. Piano virtuoso. Master composer. The way out of this personal hell.
Duane closed his eyes and swayed his upper body as he continued to play. He was lost, transported to another existence. Blackness. Calm. Tranquility.
The creature slowly materialized in the blackness, glowing amber eyes pierced his brain. He jumped up knocking the piano bench backwards.
That’s enough, he thought. The thing’s coming back. He returned to bed.
Morning. The dark gray sky visible from his bed through half-closed blinds. The rainstorm was diminishing – finally. He should’ve woken for work two hours ago according to the alarm clock. His head ached worse then last night and his gut wanted to explode. His bladder fluttered with a gurgling pressure. The muscles in his arms and legs felt tight, overstretched. Sick day, I feel sick. Need to email work. He lifted his head from the pillow and looked for his phone on the nightstand. The medusa-headed figure flashed in front of his face. “Huh?” His head pounded behind his eyes, his wrists and fingers throbbed. The bones in both hands tingled sending electric sensations up his arms to his lower neck. They didn’t look right. He picked up his phone wrapping his fingers completely around the object. “Whaaaa,” his throat screeched, sounding like a sickly toddler speaking his first words. He unlocked the phone and typed the sick email on the touchscreen, fumbling with his unfamiliar fingers; he finally hit send and dropped his head back on the pillow. Extending the phone above his face he read a text from Chelsea, confirming lunch. He sighed and responded that he was home sick, that he should be alone.
Duane studied his fingers. He tried to say “longer,” only succeeding in saying “hon-nah” having never learned to speak. His knuckles were darkened and tender, an uneasy tugging sensation consumed each bony segment of his now wiry hands, reminding him of the medusa-head’s extended digits. A sudden jolt of pain shot up to his neck from each hand, he cried out and his body convulsed. His arms immediately pulled tight against his chest bent at the elbows with wrists flung forward and fingers curled – paralyzed. He cried out as he tried to uncurl his left pinky. Another larger surge of electricity pulsed from his neck to his fingers and toes. In his panic he hadn’t realized his legs were stiff and contorted too. The pulsating bolts increased in rate and intensity like a helicopter’s propeller increasing rotation velocity in preparation for takeoff.
His vision darkened under a fog of gray and white static. Small bursts of energy appeared before his eyes. Acidic drool streamed down both cheeks irritating his flesh everywhere it touched as the rigidity forced his head to remain still. Duane struggled to keep his eyes open. The medusa-headed thing materialized above him. One of the creature’s wiry hands grabbed the other arm and stretched it like it was made of dough. Then it clasped both hands and pulled on the interlocked fingers increasing their lengths with a fluid motion….
An endorphin rush kicked in and the tension in Duane’s arms and legs released. His limbs shot outwards; both feet kicked the footboard as the top of his left hand smashed the nightstand sending the alarm clock to the floor. He cried out. The creature had disappeared again.
They seemed longer. He held both hands over his bare chest now zigzagged in inflamed marks and watched his hands continue to stretch through soaked eyes. Stretch marks formed like little lightning bolts circling his fingers, palms, and wrists. He flexed his left hand then made a tight fist. The pain was immense, but he felt some relief. He repeated the process with both hands, screaming as the pain continued to manifest. Constant movement gave him the most relief, like playing his piano.
This is it! He relished in these transformations. He needed to play.
Duane pushed himself out of the bed. He stumbled into the bathroom on weak knees and ankles. He realized his hips now rotated significantly more and he felt taller. The image he glanced in the mirror on his way to the toilet was red and swollen in parts, longer and leaner, dripped and splattered in massive dark purple stains that had originated from his mouth. He would re-examine in a minute, his bladder screamed for relief. Looking down he saw the front of his boxer shorts were also stained in the purple-black liquid and dropped them to his ankles. His penis was too sensitive to touch. Something was weird; he couldn’t look at it yet. He attempted to urinate anyway only no urine came out.
He growled and groaned as he tried to force his bladder empty to no avail. If felt like his vomiting episode from last night, only now in his urethra. He continued to push until he felt light-headed. He fell back against the wall to rest kicking off the boxers from around his feet. I need to play, I need to know this is working, his mental voice urged. He slowed his breath and tried to relax his pelvic muscles. The purple-stained sight of his elongated and twisted phallus was alarming. It didn’t even look human, more like a giraffe’s he had seen on the Discovery channel. He let out a long growl and sigh. This is the price…. After a few more deep slow breaths he felt relief coming. He stood over the toilet and watched with trepidation, as the water turned black like squid ink.
He didn’t bother to flush or wash his hands, or even put on his bathrobe hanging on the wall. He hurried to his Baldwin pushing off walls and furniture to avoid falling. He flexed his fingers several more times and began to play. At first his fingers stumbled, dragging across keys he intended to clear. He kept at it playing a simple melody in C major he created in his childhood that he always used as a warm-up. Five minutes passed and he grew accustomed. Not only could he play faster, his hands now spanned a larger range of keys with minimal effort. He laughed out loud with his newborn voice and played and played until he exhausted the tune.
Last night’s song, he considered, started these changes. He hammered a few notes along the D major scale and found his way back to the transforming melody. His pace picked up, adding high-octave flourishes he never imagined doing before his hands and arms had changed. In fact, his hands seemed to continue growing as he played. He smiled and closed his eyes despite the onset of agony that consumed the bones and joints of his hands and arms, losing himself in the beautiful otherworldly melody.
The medusa-headed figure manifested once more in the darkness of Duane’s shut eyes. The tendrils atop its head swayed with the music, moving as a head full of snakes would. Scary, yes, but he didn’t care. This shadowy being had bestowed the greatest gifts ever. Its vacant eyes developed a dull red hue as the tendrils swayed more rapidly, appearing more alive and independent of their owner’s skull. The thing’s legs became obvious for the first time, long and narrow like its arms with pronounced knobby joints and lean leathery bands of connective tissue. A hint of a long bony tail disappeared into the blackness. The figure approached, the skinny snout where its mouth should be just a black void. It came closer still until its face was all Duane could see. Its jaw unhinged as its head leaned back with fluid grace, a motion reserved for snakes in the natural world, and threw its head forward over Duane consuming him in blackness.
Duane rolled his head to one side, pressing keys with his cheek. He sat up on the piano bench and scoped the room. The wall clock in the kitchenette read 11:13. The grayness outdoors was darker, heavy rain pelted the large windows again. His stomach growled; he hadn’t eaten anything since the night before. Dehydration. His hands were heavy, his arms dangled. He could feel the grain of the hard wood floor with his fingertips. This isn’t right, he thought as he lifted his hands. He held his left hand in front of his face feeling confused.
Protracted and twisted. Knobby joints and fissured skin. His upper and lower arms sore from the rapid growth. Open wounds segmented his grossly long fingers and wrists, stinging as he flexed his hands. Looking down, similar stretch marks and fissures covered his entire naked disfigured body.
He stood up on wobbly limbs, long and narrow, his knees were much further off the floor then he was used to. Duane stumbled as he turned around to run to the bathroom, falling against the side table and recliner. He pushed himself onto the floor on all fours and crawled the short distance. A new weight in his head force it forward. His upper lip dragged on the floor.
The mirror – he needed to see. Duane wrapped both hands around the sink and hoisted his limp body high enough to see himself. He struggled as his energy was exhausted, his longer leaner muscles felt weak yet quick. The mirror showed another person, another being. A monster. His eyes were wider, stretching around his extruded face. His nose and mouth appeared more canine than human, like a greyhound. His braided hair was squirming, much like the medusa-headed thing. He reached behind and discovered a slender tale continued from his lower spine, skin had ripped as it stretched exposing bright red flesh. He screamed and bashed his face into the mirror smearing it with the dark liquid from his mouth.
He threw the weight of his body backwards out the bathroom doorway catching his head on the opposite brick way. Blood streamed down his head as he attempted to stand. He lunged toward the living room, took a few uncertain steps and crashed into the door that led to the stairwell; his right leg snagged the piano bench. He gripped the Baldwin with his right hand and the doorknob with his left. The piano belted out a guttural cacophony of notes as he tried to steady himself. His left hand kept slipping off the doorknob, smearing dark blood in the shapes of his long bony fingers and palms. He pounded on the door and screamed. He could hear somebody in the stairwell. Climbing steps. Then a knock.
“Duane? It’s Chelsea! Are you okay in there?”
Duane shrieked what sounded like help, and pounded on the door harder. The doorknob twisted; he pushed himself off the door and into the piano, his chest fell across the keyboard with a loud crash of notes. He slammed his head on the top of upright cabinet multiple times, beating himself, each percussive contact resonating in the Baldwin’s internal acoustics. The heavy strings vibrated a guttural tone and the cherry wood fractured. Too far, his mental voice chastised, this change went too far!
“Oh my god,” Chelsea shouted. “What the hell are you?”
Duane opened his eyes to see Chelsea standing in the doorway pulling out a small handgun she carried in her purse. He pushed himself off the piano creating more horrific clashes of notes. He reached out both hands and clasped them in a ball asking for mercy. She froze; her expression was enough for Duane to know what he needed to do next. He prodded the outstretched gun with his hand discharging a bullet into his shoulder.
He screamed as he felt the blood gush from the wound, the acidity burning his skin. Chelsea stepped backwards and Duane fell toward her through the doorway colliding and tumbled down the flight of stairs. Neighbors had congregated; one shouted that he already called the police. A man was approaching cautiously holding a large kitchen knife.
Chelsea kicked Duane off her body and scrambled back up a few steps. “Stay away from me,” she shouted.
Duane’s disfigured body contorted and convulsed as he reached a hand to her. “Kuh-ll m-m-muh-eeeee.” Dark blood pooled around him, the purple-black fluid spilled from his mouth.
“Where is Duane?” She raised the handgun aiming it between his eyes.
Duane pointed to his bloodied snout with an index finger now longer than a foot. “Muh-muh-eeee.” He screeched as he tried to stand. “Kuh-uh-illl muh-eeeeee.”
“Tell me what happened,” she said. Tears trickled down her ivory skin. “Where’s Duane!”
Desperate, Duane reached for the gun. The man net to Chelsea hacked at his wrist with the large kitchen knife; dark splattered everywhere while a tendon snapped. Duane screamed. Chelsea and the neighbor hastily wiped away the acidic blood from their hands and faces with their shirts. Then she fired another shot into Duane’s gut sending him backwards down the lower flight of stairs.
Duane crawled out of the old door and fell into a large puddle on the sidewalk. A police car siren was closing in. The heavy rain beat on his back, piercing the open wound where the bullet had exited from his shoulder. He pulled himself partially upright; screaming from the wounds, feint as he bled out. With the last of his strength he flung his body into the street. Cars swerved in reaction, an SUV’s tire came to rest on Duane’s head crushing it.
Duane could feel movement through the tire and suspension above his shattered skull, endorphins numbing most of the pain. Music played as the driver-side door opened, a piano concerto. Mozart, he recognized, though a composition he could never remember the name of. Multiple screams interrupted the concerto. It sounded like a crowd was forming, people shouting in disgust. He clung to the piano notes, absorbing each as it resonated no matter how muffled they were by the idling engine over his left shoulder. Warm acidic fluids puddled around his head, streaming over his eyes. The metallic taste of blood filled his mouth, each heart rate pulse slightly more diminished as he faded.
Fading to darkness in the company of Mozart, better than silence, better than the river walk at the harbor head. The last thing Duane heard was a woman shout, “what the fuck is that thing?” as he watched with eyes closed the medusa-headed figure leave his body and disappear into the blackness that overcame his sight.
This story first appeared in the 2015 anthology by Western Legends Publishing The Grimorium Verum, edited by Dean M. Drinkel.
The Gimorium Verum
The Grimorium Verum, the infamous Grimoire of Truth, is the 18th century textbook of Magick attributed to Alibeck the Egyptian and coveted by ‘The Great Beast’ Aleister Crowley. The Grimorium Verum now takes its place as the third installment in the Tres Librorum Prohibitorum series of anthologies.
Twenty-six dark fiction authors from around the world each take a letter and use their unique voices to weave magical stories of horror and the fantastic.
The Truth, at last…speaks!
D.T. Griffith hangs out in the periphery of horror and dark fiction. He draws inspiration from classic and modern works, spanning a full range of literary masters of varying genres, visual artists, comedians, and punk rock musicians. He is a member of the Horror Writers Association and a co-founder of the currently developing chapter in Southwestern Connecticut.
David holds an MFA in Creative and Professional Writing. He lives in his home state of Connecticut with his fiancée Melissa and their two dogs. You can find him on Twitter as @dtgriffith and learn more about his work on dtgriffith.com.
US Amazon Author Page: HERE
UK Amazon Author Page: HERE