Page 63 - HEF Pen & Ink 2023
P. 63

Death Listens
By Pinelope Williams
The strings felt like razors against my skin, yet my fingers floated along them—it’s where they yearn to be. Hard wood pressed itself against my aching abdomen. My mother’s house has never felt so full. The drab furniture almost swayed with my melody, mother herself dancing in her wake. With my melancholy tune swelling, something apparent stuck out to me. In the corner of the living room, I could hear a ticking, almost a rattle, acting as an uncanny metronome. My head lifted upwards and my eyes met his.
A white face and dark, dark eyes held my gaze. The etiolated surface was so disparate from his eyes, they were more void of light than Vantablack itself. Unfamiliar- ity flooded my nerves, yet the figure’s toothy grin soothed me. Each enamel mass gleamed at me, encouraging me to show them mine. His clothes were prosaic and simple: black and gray articles of cloth draped over his frighten- ingly thin limbs. For a moment, I stopped playing. My eyes dug into his and I really saw him, and for once, someone truly saw me.
“Hello,” I greeted him with a soft, genuine smile. “Can I play a song for you?” I paused and then, before he could even respond, I continued, “I wrote it myself.” The peculiar man nodded, his immutable expression ostensi- bly growing upward. I could feel my own lips curling into a childish grin. An innocent giggle jumped from my throat and suddenly, I couldn’t sit still anymore. This is all I’ve wanted.
I needed air. I clutched at the ephemeral air around me, my lungs reaching up from my throat to inspire it. My heart pumped blood with useless oxygen throughout my body, it’s fluent dance becoming laggard. With a barely beating vessel, I smiled once more and played for the familiar stranger. My sore, calloused digits crushed and slid along the strings. The searing, exquisite pain spread to my bones, completely bypassing the nerves and muscle.
I continued to play for my one-man audience; I played and played and played, even when I couldn’t play anymore. And then it stopped. My pain stopped. The glass swimming in my skin dissolved into my empty bloodstream. The elephant jumping in my skull, the beetles gnawing at my brain, the snakes swimming in my veins, the ineffable, prodigious affliction ceased to be. With such superlative relief it was as if my sempiternal torment had never existed in the first place. My suffering had completely diminished and I played better than ever
before. With one concluding arrangement of euphoric chords, I ended my song with one final exhale.
The man towered over me, in awe. His arms ascended and his hands rattled together: he was clapping. I smiled, my lungs still, and I directed my legs to meet the man. I lifted my expiring arms and hugged his torso. His spindly limbs turned warm as my fingers grazed his ribs; just like the strings they glided on before. Tears threat- ened to spill from my eyes and with one last look around, I blinked once more and kept them shut.
“Thank you.”
 Something About Eden By Thomas LaFave

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