's 2013 Horror Write-off:


Submitted by DreadNawt

Late night practice sessions always bothered me, though not because of fatigue. They always seemed to come with an innate sense of shame; like I was scrambling to make up for time I had squandered during the day. Piano was frustrating to begin with. I didnít take to it like I did other instruments. Oftentimes it felt more like driving a vehicle than anything else. Add some serious performance anxiety into the mix and any time spent in front of a keyboard became painful. My hands would shake when a professor or even another student was watching, usually with a disapproving look on their faces. Lately even practicing was upsetting. Nevertheless, with an exam looming I skulked over to the practice rooms, thermos of coffee on hand to keep me awake. They were crowded as usual, but I had found one room that was usually deserted at that hour.

Its piano was ancient; it almost looked like the wood hadnít been treated at all before the rickety thing was pieced together. Needless to say it sounded awful, but I had taken a liking to the weary hulk. I felt it had an air of elderly dignity about it. No one else seemed to agree, though the room was booked during the day by those who werenít fast enough at registration time. I shut the door, but it barely drowned out the din of people chatting in the hallways. Next door, a trombonist seemed to be tearing through some Stravinsky. His or her apparent ease wasnít making me feel any better about nervously plunking at the keyboard. Knowing how thin the walls were, I imagined disdainful glares coming from every direction. I was already feeling queasy as I attempted some scales to warm up.

I started to notice just how old the piano looked up close. Every key was like a decaying tooth, even the black ones. Where a brand name should have been, what looked like a faded sentence had been gouged into the key cover. Not exactly surprising, given all the drunken college kids frequenting these rooms during the day. The thing creaked in protest every time I pressed a key. Oddly enough though, I found the tone hypnotic. This piano heaved and sighed like it was a living creature. I wasnít doing any better than usual as I struggled through a bleak little piece, but I couldnít tear myself away long enough to wallow in frustration as usual; I was feeling connected to a piano for the first time. I had always felt that every instrument had a personality, as inanimate as they were. As crazy as it might seem, I often felt that I was disappointing a piano most of all by playing it so poorly. Mistakes have such a melancholy sound. I was so engrossed that Iím not sure how long it was until I noticed the noise.

It came from the bowels of the instrument, even after my fingers were fully off the keys. A bizarre, melodious humming, faint but insistent. I leaned forward, trying to hear more as it seemed to fade. I assumed it was just an echo from the pianoís worn-out guts, but it intensified again as I placed my hands back on the keyboard. Rising, I lifted the top board, expecting something to be stuck in the strings. I choked back a yelp when I saw the face.

It had burst up from under the strings, gnarled and craggy with keys jutting out everywhere. The room went dark and I stumbled out in terror, barely noticing that the door was suddenly gone. I ran panicking through the mazelike halls. I knew them perfectly by now but they seemed to stretch on forever, and a piano stood in every doorway. As I ran, they became more and more twisted, strings whipping, legs snapping and bending, screaming alien chords at me as I fled.  
The exit led into more blackness. I turned back and saw that they were clogging the doorway now, jammed up against each other, shattering their frames. I stood frozen as they shifted, groaning and splintering horribly. Slowly, an opening formed, like a black and white throat. I stared numbly as a silver tongue of strings twisted together and reached towards me, lapping at my neck. I blacked out quickly, but awoke as I was dragged painfully down the narrow passage. Again, I was dropped into darkness, covered in splinters. The air was still and cold, and a bench stood in front of me, in a circle of pale light. It slid toward me, knocking against me until I climbed onto it out of fear. I clung to it, unable to see anything outside of the spotlight.

The otherworldly chords hummed into earshot again, buzzing in the back of my head. As they came closer, I could see it lowering out of the gloom above me. I pressed myself against the bench, pleading for mercy. The face stopped when I could feel its stale breath on my back. It stared mournfully as I sobbed, lifting my hands in a pitiful defense. Its wooden gums peeled back   as my fingers brushed against its eroded features. The same keys, like decayed teeth, exploded out of its mouth at odd angles. Twisting around and falling off the bench, I could see shapes in the darkness. Figures lounging in theater seats surrounded me. I could barely hear them hiss ďplayĒ over the faceís labored wheezing. I tried to run, but splintered arms pummeled me back as spiraling keyboard heads swiveled towards the stage. I collapsed back onto the bench, turning fearfully toward the face. They wanted me to perform, but I could only make it howl as I put my hands to its ivory teeth. 

When they found me, no one could tell how I had gotten inside the piano. I was so tangled that the instrument had to be taken apart to retrieve me. I had somehow gnawed off most of the interior paneling, and had enormous shards of wood stabbed into my limbs, apparently self inflicted wounds. Between the counseling and the amount of money I now owe the school, I probably wonít be going back. I try to avoid instruments in general, because now I can see all of their faces.