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Mongolian horsehair

by Veronique Aglat 6 months ago in urban legend

What comes first? The violin or the bow?

Lena was raised on violin lessons and no parental supervision. The basement where she dwelled had been improved with special acoustic tiles. A dehumidifier ran almost 24/7 to preserve the wood of her expensive violin, but she loved her bow most of all. Made with snow-white Mongolian horsetail hair, her mother, on one of her annual visits, had stressed the importance of maintaining the bow.

“It’s even more costly than your instrument,” she had said in her beautiful alto voice, the rich tones of which reminded Lena of Aida’s final aria.

Infatuated with this beautiful lady who wore designer clothes, never seemed to age, and said she was her mother, Lena kept the same bow for five years. Every morning, she waxed it with infinite tenderness. The violin teacher, a woman in her seventies, visited six days a week. But one day, she stopped coming, and Lena was truly alone.

The first day, Lena enjoyed the quiet. She still felt passionate about music, but at fourteen, she was developing other interests. The mirror returned a rather plain image; mousy hair, brown eyes, no cheekbones, thin lips. Nothing special, but she had round, perky breasts that threatened to pierce right through the quasi-Amish blouse she hated so much. She spent most of that day trying to compose an outfit. The door, on top of the wooden stairs, never opened.

The second day, she ran out of food. To keep her mind off the hunger pangs, she played furiously for several hours, hoping to attract the attention of the people above, whom she relied upon for her meals. When she stopped, her fingers were bleeding, the sun had crossed the sky, and a tiny ray of light pierced the grime of her window. She grabbed one of the despised blouses and ripped it. She dipped the makeshift rag in the toilet and brought it to the window, where she climbed a chair. Passing her hand through the bars, rubbing furiously, all the while wondering why she hadn’t done this before, she managed to clean a rectangle of light. She peered outside. A row of shrubs his her window. There was nothing to see.

On the third day, she resolved to drink the toilet water. After all, it looked clean, and she was so thirsty. Where was the teacher? On every visit, the old gal reminded her to stay away from the stairs. According to the teacher, the world's dangers were so great that even the thought of being part of it ahead of her time would be enough to harm Lena. Embolden by her unwelcomed fasting, she decided to climb the wooden steps. At the narrow end, with extreme caution, she tried the handle. It was locked. The wood of the door felt so hard, it might as well have been iron. Her furious banging brought no one.

Within a week, the rat came. Lena didn’t care, she welcomed him. She saw him as prey. Using the hair on her precious bow, the young violinist devised a few traps. But the cunning little bastard stepped around every noose she set. Even worse, it came to nibble at her skin when she passed out from hunger-induced fatigue. She counted five sores on the meaty part of her arm. It seemed the devilish little animal saw her as prey as well.

By day fourteen, she was all sores. She still weakly tried to catch the rat when it came close, which was almost every ten minutes now. But truth be told, it was getting stronger while she was getting weaker. Its hair seemed shinier, its step livelier. Its long nose constantly moved, taunting. In a stroke of genius, she blocked the toilet to cut away its water supply. She would wait two days. Let it work out a real thirst. Then, she would open the cover, and voilà! She would drown the little fucker! The rat, undeterred, drank Lena’s blood instead.

On day twenty, she gave up. She would die here, in the basement that had been home for as long as she could remember. She told the rat she hoped it would find a mate and father thousands of little rats, who would go on to father more rats. Eternal life as a rodent; she could do worst. She imagined drowning in the ocean to become crab meat. Rats were a much higher life form.

She grabbed the precious bow where only a few white hairs remained. She had eaten the wax on day nine. She spat in her hand and evened out every string. Painstakingly, she lifted the violin and placed it in the curve of her neck.

The first plaintive note lifted above her sad cave like a soap bubble in the sun. Playing for herself, for her life ebbing away, Lena put on her best performance ever. All the while, she watched the rat.

It sat silently on its hind legs, just out of reach. It knew it had won. Relaxed, drooling a little, it closed its eyes for a second. A sudden, lightning fast movement crushed its skull.

“Got you!” Lena yelled as her instrument exploded.

She ate every bit of that rat. It had been her mortal enemy, but an enemy is better than no company at all. She felt good, better than she had for a long time. She reached out for the biggest splinter of her poor violin. Yes. It would do. Standing up, she walked to her window where the sun offered a yellow ray through the thick shrub, like an invitation. There would never be a better moment. With all her remaining strength, she plunged the splinter deep into her neck.

Her last thought was for the insects who would recycle her body to the earth. It was still better than the crabs.

urban legend

Veronique Aglat

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Veronique Aglat
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