's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Music, Music

Submitted by Regis Ethell (email)

'It's so peaceful this time of day, isn't it?' The yellowed, flickering lights loomed overhead, the bright, bright night sky glaring down at us. The wind cut into me. It was suffocating. It breathes in and the whole world closes its eyes.

"You found somewhere to sit, huh? Don't mind sitting outside?" I leaned back and looked up at her; a broad smile stretched across her face, two laminated menus tucked beneath her arm. She pulled back a chair, the sound of metal grinding against concrete. 'I've always loved the rain.'

"Not too cold?" She chuckled, stifled by a deep sigh. She was still smiling. "You remind me of my fiancée."

'You sound sad.'

Her fingers cut into her palm, her hands quivering.

"She's dead."

I leaned forward. The rain was light, the gentle patter against the awning overhead, against the cars and the building and the trees, the trees, and the mist wafting and waving in and out between them and the dark, dark moon reaching down, leaning over and leering at us. Music, music. It breathes out and the whole world ceases to exist. 'I'm sorry.'

"You shouldn't be."

'Is that where we're going?' She sighed, softly, her eyes stubbornly affixed to the menu.

"These prices are fucking murder. Not like there's anywhere else around here, but, uh..."

I breathed in. Again.


'Is that.. her in the back? In the truck?'

"I don't.. remember."

She always lied to me, but I don't take notice anymore. I breathed in. Again. Her voice.. rough and warm, soothing, a hot drink with a dollop of honey and a shot of whiskey. I closed my eyes and the world.. spun. My lungs were carved from a block of ice. Suffocating. Suffocating! Just get over it, just do it! You can't leave her there all by herself. I breathed in, and out. Close your eyes. I rubbed my hands together. Once, twice, again and again and again. 'Then why are we waiting here? I don't, I...'

She looked up, laid her hands flat on the table. "I thought we could get something for dinner."

'It's 3 am.'

She shrugged.

"I think I'll just get coffee but, ah, you should get something. You should eat!" She smiled, a warm, gentle thing. Her inflection was forced and painful. "Rain should turn to sleet soon. Don't want you to be out on the road in case it ices up, so-"

'You are going to come with me, aren't you?'

She smiled. "Yes."

'Are you sure? You're not going, to..'

"Why wouldn't I come?"

She wrapped her fingers a bit too tightly around the mug, but you could still see her hands were shaking. Against the white of the mug her skin was as black as the empty sky.

'And what exactly are you going to do?'

She was silent.

"Drive far away, then.. let her go. Then we leave."

'Just like that?'

She sipped her coffee.

"Just like that."

Breathe in, breathe out. Close your eyes. She set down her empty mug and stood up. "Shouldn't be far now."

She stood, slowly and deliberately, resting her fingertips on the edge of the table. She looked.. sad. She looked like she was ready to boil over, she wanted to scream and wail at the top of her lungs and let herself be heard, to make herself be heard. She wanted to grab her braids and rip them out one by one at the root, crack open her skull against the parking lot, rend open her chest and yank out that weeping heart so she would never feel like this again. She did none of those things. Her eyes burned, and she dipped her head and turned the corner and dared not make a single sound.

'You don't need to.. drive. Leave her here. Leave her here. Come with me.'

She stood, silently, her hand clenched around the handle of the car door. Her arms fell to her sides, then lifted, drawn up around her chest, shivering despite her heavy jacket. Breathe in, breathe out. The world is so.. still. It watches, it watches, it watches but it never moves, can't be moved. You pass by so fast and it never moves. I've always loved the night, the stillness. I'm so terrified of running out of time, I never have enough time, I've made so many mistakes, I've missed out on so much. I would give anything to be her.

"This truck was.. her's, you know. A 1968 Chevy. She loved the old cars. I.. want you to have it, after this is over. I can't.."

The patter of the rain, the rain, music, music. The howling agony of the wind, throttling the trees, grabbing, shaking, weaving through the branches. The moon is singing its music, and the night is still and bright.

She walked slowly towards the bed of the truck. A large, wire dog crate. draped with a rough, woven cotton blanket. She carefully pulled the crate off the bed, setting it down on the asphalt. "I can't.. put it off. Any more."

I knew what she meant, but I didn't.. She leaned in and undid the latch. "Get back in the truck."

I stayed where I was. She pulled open the crate door, swiftly, and took a step back. 'You're staying here, I take it?'

She closed her eyes, too tightly, and clasped her hands together.

"I'll stay here."

I walked to the truck, and locked the door behind me. I wasn't.. sad. I felt guilty about that. I pulled out of the parking lot slowly, very slowly, but she didn't move. I hummed softly, very softly, to the rain, to the wind, to the sound of my own music. I mourned for lost time. I mourned for nothing any more. When I looked back, she was gone.

Note: if you enjoyed this story, consider helping out the author's medical expenses here - Jonathan