It began when the movers came into our house, whispers like a low rustling of leaves. Barrel chested men with mustaches and skin as leathery as their yellowing moving gloves hauled it into the living room.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Charlie?” Mother crooned as she pulled out a worn bench.
I stood there in the hallway eyes roaring over the darkly shaded wood and gleaming ivory keys.
The screen door slammed shut as both mother and I listened to the mover’s truck engine rattle off into the sunlight.
“Does it have teeth?” I asked, unsure of this new intruder now waiting at the end of the hall, seemingly for me.
“Teeth?” Mother giggled, and with a flourish of her hands, began to play the ages piano.
“The only teeth I see are the ones smiling back at me!” she said in a sing-song voice and glance in the hanging mirror. It adorned the wall above our ‘new’ piano.
The keys plunked out a slightly off-key version of Fur Elise. I felt the floor vibrate under my feet as mother’s feet pumped the pedals, fingers moving up and down effortlessly.
I felt mesmerized before the first stanza has passed. There was another noise. A deeper noise that spoke to me. To this day I can still hear it. Like the low roar of the surf.
“Oh,” mother stopped mid-song, breaking my concentration. I somehow had walked down the hall and was touching worn and polished wood.
How, no when had I gotten there?
I couldn’t tell because now mother was standing up from the piano and closing her music book.
“There’s something wrong with the sustainer pedal, it must be stuck.” She was talking more to herself now, heading into the kitchen muttering, “guess Bob will have to take a look at it.”
I was alone with the thing. My skin crawled like someone was watching me. I stood there, not sure I should be alone with this new . . . Prize.
The living room grew still as Mother started pulling out pots and pans from the kitchen cupboards. Beyond the living room, our metal screen door stood ajar, a cool October breeze blowing in.
I took a few steps towards it, instinct telling me to put some space between me and the piano.
My sudden motion caused the room’s floorboards to creak, eliciting a low hum from the piano. It was a groan so human-like I expected to see mother watching me cross to the door.
“Mom?” I called, fear coloring my tone.
“Yes, dear?” She called back shutting off the kitchen faucet.
There was a pause, and I inexplicably knew the piano was listening to me, to us. Another hum traveled up and down its upright strings.
Taking a quick breath to quell an inappropriate amount of fear bubbling up my throat, I looked away to the kitchen. In a shaking voice, I called back, “I’m gonna go outside for a bit.”
“Okay, honey,” mother shouted, “be back when I call for you.”
Another breeze from behind drew across the nape of my neck, raising each hair on my scalp down to my toes.
The piano hummed again as my feet shuffled back toward the door. I looked at the piano and froze, hand giving an involuntary squeeze on the door handle.
Upon the top of the old upright piano sat a man. A thin man, dressed in rags. Pale eyes shown out beneath wispy and wrinkled brows. His form rippled with the breeze like hanging sheets on the backyard laundry lines.
I couldn’t move, the man just stared. His bushy beard and tattered clothes continuing to undulate.
All I could do was gape. He wasn’t real, how could a person, especially someone as shabby as him, suddenly appear in my house? But there he was with a physical body moving like crumpled paper.
I was shaking, sweat pouring down my back. It was freezing, the room was freezing. I wanted to scream, to cry, to run. The man just stared.
I shifted my weight again, pushing against the metal of the door. The floor seemed to scream with my weight. And as the sound traveled its way across the floor to the piano, the old man opened a mouth, filled with a darkness I had never seen. Crooked teeth seemed to swallow the light in our living room as a growing hum and whisper rose from the piano.
Oh, the whispers, so many, so many like a rushing sea.
I watched as his eyes and nose darkened as well, now more dark than the night sky.
So dark, so dark, was all I could think as I felt drawn in.
“Oh for the love!” shouted Mother from the kitchen as a pot clattered to the floor. I jumped, scraping my arm against the metal grating of the door.
The humming whisper stopped, dark cold pulling away from my body. I looked back at the piano.
The old man was gone, the weathered wood staring back innocently. But I knew, I knew.
This was only the beginning.
This is the Sinister Countdown. If you liked this descent into maddness be sure to like and follow this month’s macabre passage. These stories, words, and poems come from the darker recesses of the mind behind the InkOwl. If you’d like to read past Sinister Countdown posts, follow the link below.