A Cosmic Concerto
Take Your Seats, The Show is About to Start
Alfred was a musician, through and through. In his mind, music was a universal language that surpassed understanding. A way of communication, of expression, of one’s self, without the need for words.
He was an avid collector of instruments, specifically ones that were rare or unbeknownst to the world of music.
He had guitars, he had trombones, trumpets, french horns, cellos, violins, and even a hydraulophone. The hydraulophone was one of the rarest instruments in the world, designed for low vision musicians and played through direct contact with water.
An exquisite specimen, but Alfred’s latest discovery made it pale in comparison.
Alfred gingerly cut the last of the tape on the package that sat upon his dining room table. With wrinkled and aging hands, he lifted the box open and looked upon the case inside. It was roughly the size of a violin case but made from a smooth, shiny black stone. Strange runes were carved into the exterior, drawn in a line down the center.
The runes had a flowing, almost spiral-like structure to them, not unlike the shape of a treble clef. Alfred was captivated by them. He almost thought he could hear a low hum as he ran his fingers across their surface.
With his excitement reaching a crescendo, Alfred lifted the lid from the stone case and looked upon the latest addition to his vast collection. It was even more beautiful than the pictures from the seller. It was made from a stone similar to jade, shimmering with an emerald glow despite very little light for it to reflect.
It had a curled spiral base that forked at the neck into three branches. An intricate bridge mounted on the base led twelve strings, four per neck, up to small spirals at the tips of each neck. The strings were a vibrant white, like they had been crafted from the strands of an angel’s hair.
An instrument so rare it had no name, and a seller so mysterious they would not disclose a single detail about where it came from or their true identity. Alfred was taken aback at the beauty of it, but more than anything, he had to know what manner of sounds it would produce.
The instrument had a surprising lack of weight to it as he pulled it from the case. The surface was cool to the touch, and the strings had a strength to them that betrayed their fragile appearance. Alfred sat with the instrument placed horizontally on his lap, wondering just how it was meant to be played.
He waved his hands over the strings and felt a sort of pull, like he had magnets on his fingers. Without touching the strings themselves, he pulled against the invisible force and ran his hand over one of the necks. The four strings let out a sound unlike anything he had ever heard. It was like the very air shook around him with a deep, bellowing hum.
He basked in the sound, enjoying the sensation of something entirely new. Alfred ran a finger over one of the strings in the second neck and felt the invisible tug. He plucked the string and heard a singular, perfect note ring out all around him.
Alfred was enraptured, hypnotized even. With each pluck of the strings, he heard notes that felt like cool water crashing against his ear drums. Sounds that defied all logic with the way they seemed to emanate from all around him.
Alfred started moving between the necks, trying to create chords that were impossible to define. As he ran his hands over the strings, he felt a tension rising in the air around him, but he paid it no mind, not until fractures started to appear in the space around him.
Alfred couldn’t explain what he was seeing. The very air in front of him started to split, tearing like the seams in a piece of clothing, revealing otherworldly vistas beyond.
With each note, each chord, the ruptures grew larger. Alfred felt a pressure rising in his head, like the sound was filling his skull from the inside out. What began as a soothing sensation soon morphed into terror.
Marissa, Alfred’s part-time nurse, arrived for her night shift and stumbled into the room with utter bewilderment painted across her face. She had been taking care of Alfred since his wife passed away three years prior.
Alfred didn’t like to admit it, but his mind had begun to unravel with age. Even his own memories became foreign to him, but Alfred clung to his music, which never abandoned him, and always offered a sense of comforting familiarity.
Marissa should have called out sick that night. She didn’t deserve this dark fate.
As her eyes wandered across the fractures in reality surrounding Alfred in the center of the room, something in her mind snapped like a twig.
“Marissa, get out! I can’t stop playing!” Alfred shouted.
His mouth was one of the few things he could still control. Despite everything, He could not stop his hands from playing the instrument. That pull that seemed to connect him to the strings was now in control.
A smile crossed Marissa’s face. Alfred saw a broken psyche reflected in her eyes, laid out across her irises like shards of glass.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked.
Alfred clenched his teeth as the pressure continued to build inside his head. The jagged tears around him grew larger and the vistas beyond grew more strange and unknowable with each passing note. He tried to blink, but his eyes were affixed on the unraveling reality before him.
“Marissa, you need to leave, now!” Alfred shouted.
Marissa pressed a single finger to her lips.
“Shush Alfred, you’re ruining the ambiance.”
Marissa walked between the ever-widening cracks in the air surrounding them, taking a moment to appreciate each alien vista as if it were a piece of art in a gallery. Alfred’s eyes burned as he tried to blink.
“No, no, it’s not quite right,” Marissa said.
She turned away from the scene and walked over to a collection of instruments displayed on the far side of the room. Under the light of the moon, she tore open a French Horn case and pulled out the instrument. She tossed the glistening silver mass of tubes, carefully examining each curve before tossing it aside like garbage.
She reached into the case and pulled out a small silver mouthpiece. The grin on her face widened.
“Yes, this will do nicely.”
Marissa turned the narrow end of the mouthpiece towards her face and plunged the metal cylinder into her eye. Alfred watched, helpless as he played the instrument. Marissa stabbed her eyes, over and over, sending streaks of blood arching through the air, laughing maniacally with each thrust into her skull.
“Yes! Yes!” she cried, “It’s working!”
Marissa dropped the bloody mouthpiece onto the floor and turned to Alfred with a mad grin on her face.
“Those pesky eyes were in the way. Now, I can finally see!”
She walked over to Alfred’s desk and opened one of the drawers. He looked on as she took a stack of blank sheet music and began furiously writing notes onto the page. She picked up the bloody pages, grabbed a stand, and walked over to Alfred, standing between him and the portals surrounding them.
She set the stand down and laid out the sheet music. The structure of the notes were familiar, but the time signature, the flow, all of it defied any music theory Alfred had ever known. It was a sight-reading for the ages.
“Play it,” Marissa said.
Alfred looked down at his hands, totally outside of his control. Blood dripped from the fingertips. He was touching the strings now as he played against his will, and they cut into his skin like razor wire. The music shifted, becoming more dissonant and biting.
Marissa nodded slowly and swayed to the beat of the notes. Alfred fought relentlessly against the force that continued to hold him hostage. For a brief moment, he succeeded, and a shrill note broke through the music. The portals surrounding them wavered.
Marissa let out an inhuman screech and leapt towards Alfred. She pressed her blood-soaked hands against his temples.
“PLAY THE FUCKING MUSIC!” she roared.
From within his ears, a loud sound, like a clap of thunder, shattered his ear drums. Pain soared across his head, but in place of the notes, all Alfred could hear was a high pitch hum.
He had little time to reflect on the tragedy of a musician losing his hearing as the pressure began to build in his head again.
Marissa danced and twirled across Alfred’s vision. From within the portals, Alfred felt something approaching. Unable to comprehend the sight of it, Alfred’s eyes saw only a distorted silhouette, like living static. He could feel it drawing closer, the pressure rising inside his skull with each step.
Marissa ceased her dancing and faced Alfred. She stood up straight, raised her hands above her shoulders, and gazed at him with hollow, mutilated eyes.
With a feverish fervor, she began conducting, and Alfred’s bloody fingers responded in kind. Glimpses of bone glimmered beneath ragged skin as his hands furiously tore at the strings of the instrument.
The pressure continued to build. His broken ears heard only a dull roar as Marissa continued to push the performance forward. The tempo soared as blood splattered across the floor with each pluck of the strings.
All of it was building. Rising towards a gruesome climax.
The portals stretched outward until they touched, forming a thick crevice in the fabric of reality. The unfathomable thing was close now, moments from crossing the veil. Marissa threw her head back and unleashed a scream, equal parts pain and ecstasy.
Alfred uttered only a whimper as his brain ruptured and everything went black.
The music stopped, the portal slammed shut, and Marissa was left alone in utter silence. She stood quietly for a brief moment before clenching her fists and stepping towards Alfred’s corpse.
Rage had replaced the blood in her veins, but she took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“It’s fine. He wasn’t strong enough.”
She bent down and picked up the strange instrument. She gingerly placed it back in its stone case and closed it.
“We’ll just have to try again.”
Marissa took the instrument and left.
Alfred was discovered three days later. An investigation ruled his cause of death as a brain aneurysm, but the amount of blood at the scene indicated foul play.
The police followed several leads, including a statewide search for Alfred’s caretaker, but without any next of kin to push them further, the local law enforcement simply closed the case.
Alfred’s vast collection of instruments, both familiar and foreign, were eventually sold off to various collectors. The mysterious instrument that ended his life, along with the dedicated nurse that had often visited him, were never seen again.
About the author
Lover of dogs, gaming, and long walks on the beach. Content Marketing Manager by day, aspiring writer by night. Long time ghostwriter, finally stepping into the light. Alone, we cannot change this world, but we can create better ones.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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