This short story has been accepted by Entropy Magazine! The story centers around three characters involved in sexual assault trials and could be triggering for some readers, so continue with caution! If you would like to read it, it can be found here: https://entropymag.org/woven-two-truths-and-a-lie/
I turned the page in my favorite book, devouring word after word. It was late at night, and the sun would be up soon, but at this point it was no use attempting to sleep. As the characters danced in my mind, I heard faint piano music playing - Beethoven, or Chopin, or something of the sort. The music floated in my head, and the story was rich and beautiful. Reading was a wonderful escape for a person stuck in an unfortunate situation. Living at home was lonely, but I was never truly alone. A good book was the perfect way to keep the voices quiet. I replaced them with the voices of my characters, and I was happy for a little while.
The climax of the song ascended, and the volume grew to a decibel so loud it almost felt real. I closed my book to check my sanity, and though the words and the story were still, the music kept on. The intensity of the piece built, and I recognized the familiar melody.
Two sides of myself argued in my head, debating whether to shut out the music, or to follow the sound. The melody shifted from a sweet, floating, tune to a coarse and intrusive sound. I wouldn’t be able to ignore it even if I tried.
Pulling back my covers and tossing my fear aside, I indulged my curiosity. My room, small and calming, with its walls lined with books and the floor cluttered with clothes, was the only thing standing between me and the song. Just outside of my room rested my piano and a shelf of music I’d never learned how to play. The door protected me for now, but once it was opened, I was subject to whatever - or whomever - was waiting to greet me. I had experience with this sort of thing. How bad could a sweet piano player be? I pushed the door open and stepped out into vulnerability.
There he sat, still and unassuming, plucking away at the keys of my old piano. He was tall, dressed in a nice suit, and played better than I’d ever dreamed. His melody had quieted now, as if to protect my ears. He seemed peaceful.
Even if I’d wanted to speak to him, to tell him I loved his song, I knew it wasn’t likely he would hear. They usually couldn’t hear me. It was rare I could hear them. Still, the urge to compliment him on his rendition of this well-known song was almost overwhelming. I recognized the song coming to an end, and took one step towards him, listening intently. He played softer, and I took another step forward, now straining to hear. When he played the final note, I realized I was standing just over his shoulder.
“That was beautiful sir. Moonlight Sonata by Chopin, is it not?” I asked. His formal attire and his talent for the piano was enchanting.
“Beethoven, ma’am.” He replied politely, placing his fingers back on the yellowed keys.
I’d never heard one of them speak. They never did. They never could. A string of tension shot through the peaceful air, lighting the room with panic. I slowly backed away from the strange man. My bedroom was close by.
“Did you not want to hear my next song, ma’am?” The tall man asked, beginning a new melody. This new song was set in a minor key, and my stomach churned. The way he played the song was more haunting than his slender appearance.
“I didn’t realize you were going to play me another.” I said, willing my voice to stay still and calm. It was then that he let out a short chuckle, and turned his head.
Sunken cheeks, drooping flesh, rotting teeth, and bleeding eyes met my terrified gaze. He stretched his mouth to form a horrid smile, releasing a small spider from his dying jaws.
“Oh ma’am, I’m afraid you’re quite mistaken. I was never playing for you.”
He licked his cracked and bloody lips, tipped his hat, and turned back to the piano. Unable to do anything else, I backed into my room and closed my eyes.
He’s just like the others I begged myself to believe, but deep down, I knew that he was different. The others didn’t talk. They never even showed their face. He's just like the others, I convinced myself. I lay in bed until the sweet lull of piano music and the pace of my heart slowed and I fell asleep.
I awoke the next morning to the tingling feeling of a spider crawling across my nose. Swatting it off and sitting up sharply, my mind returned to the night before. I ran to the piano, but the cover was on and it looked as if it hadn't been touched. Breathing a sigh of relief, I reassured myself. He’s just like the others.
When I walked back into my room, my breath seized and my heart quickened. The wrong side of my double bed was dipped down, as if someone had lain there, and several drops of blood had soaked into the pillow. The sheets on the wrong side were pulled back, laying unmade where a partner should have been. Just next to where I had been sleeping was a single piece of sheet music, tattered, old, and very much real.
Smoothly and softly, the first notes of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata echoed from my old piano.