The Screaming Violin
Howard quickened his pace as he strolled toward home. Dusk had settled in and so had the foggy mist which had been plaguing the northeastern village all spring. He had wanted to reach home before dark, but his boss, Mr. Scribner, had insisted that he finish balancing the accounts of their largest client before he left for the day. Howard cursed Mr. Scribner on a daily basis, but on this night those sentiments were tripled. He didn’t believe the stories that everyone told of the terrors that followed this eerie fog; he just wanted to celebrate his anniversary with his wife June. They had planned a simple night at home together, but she had promised to prepare a special meal and he hated the thought of disappointing her if he should be late.
It was only their first anniversary together, but what a year it had been. The love of his life, he had worshiped her from afar for years for lack of courage to ask her out. He didn’t feel he was good enough, that he could provide enough, or be enough. It was those thoughts which drove him through school where he earned top marks. Those thoughts pushed him to become the most sought after CPA in his class. After he landed his position with Mr. Scribner’s office and was able to pull in a respectable salary, he finally felt worthy of her. He bought her a ring after their first date but found the restraint to ask her to marry him until after they’d been together six months. This year of marriage had been the happiest year of his life and he didn’t want anything to tarnish it.
The fog became denser as darkness settled in for the night. It completely blocked out the street light lamps making it difficult for him see. He knew the way home by heart, it was only a fifteen minute walk, but the blackness was causing him to lose his bearings. While thinking of her and dreading his tardiness, he had lost track of how many blocks he had walked thus far. He strained to see the street signs but they were invisible. The rows of houses that lined his route also became invisible in the darkness. He turned around and around looking for the nearest glow of light but found none. Surrounded in blackness, he assumed that this must be what it was like to be blind for he could literally see nothing.
He stopped to listen for sounds of other souls trapped like him in the fog. Nothing. Not a footstep. Not an engine. Not an animal. Not a breeze or a breath. Complete silence enveloped him. Then faintly in the distance, he began to hear the sound of a single violin. But this was not the sound of a lovely aria. It screeched and cried as if it was being strangled sending goose pimples up and down his spine, and he began to shiver. He needed to get moving again, but he didn’t know which direction to turn. The howling violin grew louder, and he realized that the noise was approaching him.
He vaguely remembered some warnings of a violin in the fog. What had they said? He strained his mind to remember. He had only ever half listened to them; he thought they were just crazy stories that old men liked to tell to scare the children home at night. They shared them over coffee at the local café and laughed at the frightened looks they produced. Was someone playing a joke? It’s easy to scare someone in the darkness.
“Who’s there?” he called out, but the only response was that repetitive screeching. “Is this a joke? It’s not funny.” Only screeching answered him as it drew nearer. The closer it approached the less it sounded like a violin and the more it sounded like terrible scream.
Howard ached to get away. There were very few things that he ever found funny, but he especially didn’t care for this sort of humor. He decided to choose a direction and just keep moving. It was now impossible to see his own feet as they stepped forward, but he pushed onward. The screaming of the violin followed. What was the meaning in all of this? Where had this cursed fog come from?
“From the depths of hell, of course,” Howard heard the answer to his thoughts. Where had that come from? He found himself wishing for the first time in his life that he had carried a weapon of some sort. Certain that his mind must be playing tricks on him; he continued on in the direction he hoped would lead home while that awful scream closed in on him.
He tripped over a curb and face planted to the pavement. The horrible stinging in his nose rang through his face all the way to the back of his head. He didn’t need to see the blood to know that it poured out from his nostrils. He was certain that it was broken. The scream of the violin came closer still. “Whoever is there, please stop that noise and help me,” he cried out into the darkness. “I just want to get home.”
“There’s nothing to go home to now,” the reply came. Howard felt helpless and paralyzed in the blackness. Who was saying these things? The noise was so close he thought he could reach out and touch it; he groped the air around him hoping to find the source.
“Please stop this nonsense. I just want to get home to my wife.” Howard lifted himself up, and continued to reach out around him searching for the source of this sick joke.
“You won’t find her there.” Howard stopped his movements and froze as he realized the source of these words came through the screeching of the violin.
How was this possible? How could the instrument make noises such as these, to say these things? He must be going mad. It must be something in the fog, in the blackness of the night that made the mind toy with a man in this way.
“You’re not mad yet, but you will be,” it replied to his thoughts.
“What’s the meaning of all this? Why are you doing this to me? Do you get some thrill out of terrorizing people?”
“Yessssss,” came the screaming hiss.
Howard decided it was time to run. He had to get away from the noise, from the words. He couldn’t take this infernal darkness anymore.
“You won’t find her there, you won’t find her there, you won’t find her there,” it screeched and scratched after him, following him. “Joooonnnne!” it screamed.
The sound of her name caused the panic to rise further within him. How did it know her name? Had it hurt her?
“Yesssss,” again the screeched hiss answered his thoughts.
His fear for her overwhelmed the fear he had for himself and he stopped his sprint to confront the horrible noise. “What have you done to her?”
The violin began to make noises so unconceivably horrible that Howard fell to his knees. It shrieked louder and faster in a higher and higher pitch. He grasped his ears to try to block it out, but he couldn’t stop the terrible pop of his eardrums bursting. Now the blood poured out from them as it did from his nose. Still the pitch grew higher and higher until his eyeballs began to bleed as well. He could do nothing to stop the noise or the way his body reacted to it.
The next morning, a policeman stopped by Howard’s house to break the news of his death to his widow. When his repeated knocks went unanswered, he found the door unlocked and let himself in. It was the same bloody sight. She had also bled out from her eyes, nose and ears.
“I’m getting sick of this.” He shook his head at the corpse. “I got to get out of this town.”