Winter of Whimsy & Wyrdness Week Three

Welcome back to our winter flash story arena. This week’s photograph was requested by Beth. It is called Zingaro, by Ozan Uzul.

Submissions of 500 words or less are due in the reply section of this post by Saturday at 6 pm PST. Stories considered for the anthology must contain some element of magic or the supernatural. See complete contest rules here.

zingaro

*image courtesy of freeimages.com

15 thoughts on “Winter of Whimsy & Wyrdness Week Three

  1. zevonesque

    The Great Zingaro
    A.J. Walker

    Zingaro came from nowhere. Not so much plucked from obscurity but created from nothing.

    He was the talk of the town, the city, the country and then the world. This mesmorising genius who could make grown men cry with just his four strings and a few minutes of his time.

    “We have to have Zingaro!” was the most heard line at all organising events.

    “We have no chance of getting Zingaro!” was the second most heard.

    Zingaro did not tour. He turned up at places alone and unannounced; just him and his violin. Whatever was scheduled was cancelled; such was his reputation.

    Some say that he had sold his soul at the crossroads, some say that the violin was enchanted. It mattered not to those who heard him. It was truly a once in a lifetime moment. Soothing and chilling, love, lust and hate all these feelings woven together by Zingaro’s unparalleled magic leaving those who heard him in untold raptures.

    He turned up at the Philharmonic Hall on Friday morning. Unannounced, as ever. His brooding presence in his Johnny Cash black thick and heavy. The manager looked at him incredulous, hoping he wouldn’t faint, then giving thanks to every god he’d ever heard of. Zingaro in his hall.

    “You? Oh my! You want to see the hall? You want to play here?”

    The silence was ended with a nod. Zingaro never spoke.

    “Tonight?”

    Zingaro carefully placed his jacket over the arm of a chair and shook the manager’s right hand, holding his violin firmly in the other.

    The twitterverse and media meltdown was soon matched by real fighting for tickets outside the hall.

    “Zingaro is in town!” was the headline in the local paper. “Zingo-mania!” ran the Metro tagline above a photo of riots of well-healed gents hustling through the foyer for the few precious tickets.

    He played that night – his usual one hour slot – to twelve hundred of the luckiest people in England. Afterwards no-one could tell you what he had played, but that it was the most incredible hour of their lives. No one thought to record it; they never did. That was put down to being part of the magic, everyone was literally entranced for the hour.

    That night a faceless man in a long black coat breezed through the hall’s foyer passing through the thronging crowd unnoticed as they tried to relive what they had just witnessed. He knocked on the door before walking straight in to Zingaro, who was waiting for him with the violin on his lap. A hand reached out from the folds of the shadows and Zingaro bowed slightly before passing the violin over without question.

    The Great Zingaro was never heard from again and there are no recordings from his year of touring. Some say he was the greatest musician who ever lived, some say the devil took him after his deal was complete. Most just say “Who was Zingaro?” There is never a satisfactory answer.

    499 words
    @zevonesque

    #FlashDogs

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  2. jimm848

    Jim M, @Jim_M848, 500 words with title

    The Dance of Futures

    Finishing his last prayer, Father Thom George rose slowly to his feet, knees grudging, back complaining. In your seventieth year, he bemused, everything is weakness. He turned to his desk and clasped his hands over a belly of comforts, hanging snug in a thick black jersey. The wide bay window beyond his desk imposed the same view as it had before his prayers.

    The dragon slept coiled around St. Mark’s spire, head tucked under wing, one blaze yellow eye half open and watchful above the tusked wing edge. The ground around the tower was a carpet of smashed masonry and shorn tiles. Adorning the plated scales of the monstrous machine’s muscular neck was the sprayed blood of livestock and the soot of homes. Father George’s flock cowered in the building underneath, desperate refugees from the brief war of Farley-in-Wigness drawn by the false promise of safety within old stone walls.

    Upon the early eastern wind had ridden the grand, ancient beast and within an hour it razed the parish. Orchards were frittered, woodland levelled. New daylight illuminated the pillar of black smoke that had been East Shellinton, fifteen miles distant.

    “In their sleep” he thought sadly.

    After years of disturbing locals with training flights, where were the RAF jets now? They may come, he reflected, but perhaps not before the wyrm awoke to burn his church and the building around them.

    Father George inspected his office. In the fireplace, remnants of last night’s fire still smouldered. The framed photograph on the mantelpiece spoke to him in his brother’s laughter and songs of memory. On the wall by the coat stand was tacked a crude painting of a black and white stick figure in front of an abstract angular church. He smiled as he touched it and with his decision made, folded it and carefully placed it in the breast pocket closest to his heart.

    He pocketed a small battered Bible from the bookcase. Inscribed in the front of the fifty year old book was a short message from his late mother. George felt the touch of his father’s hand upon his shoulder and it steadied his shakes.

    The picture on his desk was of a Husky, his favourite, the dogs plush shiny coat at odds with it’s stern, solemn gaze. The caption read; ‘WOW! So you ran a Marathon! How heavy was the sled?”

    Father George put on his heavy winter coat and opened the front door carefully, slowly. To the west of the blighted church tower was a copse of trees. Father George pondered the direction until he saw the nest and the fearful peek of the mother bird.

    To the east then, wide open fields, no protection save God’s. He was calm, scared, resolved. He asked God that his arthritic fingers could still find the chords.

    And for time.

    Father Thom George took a deep breath, straightened his collar, gripped his fiddle and bow, stepped out to lead the beast to dance.

    Reply
  3. carlos

    @goldzco21
    432 words
    #flashdog

    Pizzicato

    He grew tired of words so he traded his vocal chords for strings on a violin. Words were messy and his messages were always muddled. Even when he tried to be direct, there were connotations, inflections, and body language that anyone could interpret in a variety of ways. Music was simple; there was no need to explain it. He sent the vibrations into the ether, and whoever chose to listen, could. From there it was just emotion. Sorrow, love, and excitement all conjured by a drawing of the bow.

    Things went well for him in his new mode of communication. His jaw never felt more natural than pressed on the chin rest. It was something he never felt with it fluctuating between vowels and consonants. Both his daughters would gather around him in the oak chair and listen to joyous melodies; in the evening he would play amorous sonatas for his wife. The wife and children were delighted by it—for a while, at least.

    The music became mundane with the regularity in which he played it, and the sounds lost all their enchantment. The bow’s gliding on the strings became grinding on the strings. The sight and sound of the father and his violin was a nuisance. It seemed like the more he played on the strings the more drained the family felt. The mother’s plea for silence was futile. Even the children’s teary supplications were disregarded. The request to stop playing caused the father to persist even more relentlessly in an attempt to draw them back. This drove the mother to act.

    While the father slept, the mother pulled the violin from its case. She knew the father had traded his vocal cords for the strings on the violin so the simplest solution was to cut the strings. With the kitchen knife she severed the thinnest string with a swift slice. The severed string emitted a low screech that woke the father. He looked at his wife with manic eyes, but the mother cut the second string. He reached out to her with one hand while he cupped his mouth shut with the other. The mother slid the blade back and forth over the third string, and the father yelled out ‘stop’, but it was too late; the string sprung loose with a plink, and the mother fell dead.

    The father looked at his wife on the floor and knew both his daughters were also dead. Rage swelled inside him, and he focused it on the violin. He picked it up and with a violent pluck, ended his life.

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  4. Mark A. King

    The day Death died
    @Making_Fiction #FlashDog
    462 words

    Andre had played the tune a billion times and every time he’d taken a life – until today.

    The gravity of his job never left him, how could it? But if he had friends, family, or even the slightest relationship with anyone, he might tell them that it became easier, maybe even a little predicable and mundane as the years and deaths rolled by. But he hadn’t talked to anyone in over a thousand years.

    Yet, here he was, talking.

    “How did you capture me?” he asked. His voice rasped, crackled; wheezed with hints of age and decay.

    His fingers, like knotted twigs, shook as he sat there.

    “It matters not,” the policewoman said. She was young, younger than he ever remembered being. But he had taken younger, much younger. Her uniform was impeccable. Clean. Unadorned with the grime of this world, as if the responsibility of life was a burden she had yet to accept or understand.

    He tried to sniff her, but could not read her life, or her future.

    For some time his senses had been deteriorating. He was not as nimble or perceptive as he once was.

    She sat in front of him. The wipe-clean table and sustainable cardboard corporate coffee cup separating them. “You are not who you seem,” she stated.

    “Who is?” he replied.

    “You have killed billions,” the police officer said, “tell me it’s true.”

    “I am forbidden to lie. It is true.”

    He expected shock. Disbelief. Anger. All he got was a smile from her. “Tell me how it feels.”

    “It is not something I asked for. I play my song. I take the old. I take those that are young. I wait for the coming of winter for I know the frosts, cold and infection will make my job easier. You may judge me, but life cannot exist without death. All things must come to an end.”

    She nodded.

    “Why a violin?” She asked.

    “It is made from wood gathered from religious artefacts and the bones of relics. It was been tuned by creatures that have long since departed these lands. It is my tool. I play the music and claim the lives. Release the souls. But I am tired and I cannot claim as many as I used to. The world is becoming overpopulated.”

    He noticed her reaching into her breast pocket. Perhaps a notebook. Perhaps pepper-spray. Perhaps a Taser.

    She held a harmonica gently in her hands.

    “This is made from the metal of industry, from the gods of technology and greed. When I play it… well I don’t need tell you, do I?” she said, no response forthcoming, “like you say, everything must end. Without death there is no life.”

    She raised the harmonica to her lips and played the tune.

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  5. Image Ronin

    A Lament in Chroma

    As the streets far below the minaret stirred into life Victor, his violin hanging in his grip, allowed himself a moment to reflect on what he was about to unleash. The morning dusk seeped across the citadel, illuminating the slumbering grey buildings of the capital. For decades the Senate had ruled with an assured touch that had restored order to a society torn asunder by civil war. Making the hard choices to restore peace to streets bathed in the blood and echoing with the screams of brother fighting brother.

    Victor had been a staunch advocate for the Senate’s bravery in such troubling times. Of course there were dissenting voices, mainly spurred on by ill-founded rumours of work camps and firing squads. “What price would you deem freedom worth?” Victor would reply, making detailed notes of the complainer that he then diligently passed onto the authorities. Hadn’t the Senate warned of such tricks? That the utopia they had all fought to protect was only one wicked lie away from ruin.

    Even Victor’s own son had succumbed, falling under the influence of some anti-Senate cult, spouting ridiculous conspiracy theories about secret lists and abductions in the middle of the night. The two of them would argue until the early hours, their eyes and throats raw in the morning with frustration. If Victor had known then the path that their ideological differences would lead Sigmund down, maybe he would have listened more and argued less. Yet it was too late, for one morning he learned that Sigmund had been spirited away one night by the Senate’s agents, hustled into a nondescript black van. His fellow activists had tried to save him, yet were beaten back by cudgels and threats. Victor had gone to the Senate’s Counsel, demanding assurances, that surely his loyalty should warrant leniency for his misguided son. Yet the civil servant just reminded him that through such sacrifice the citadel was safer, better, purer.

    Victor had retreated back that day, locking himself away, becoming a recluse. The weeds and trees had outgrown the garden by the time he had emerged back into society. Now armed with the knowledge of what he had to do, of how to avenge the death of his son at a system he had trusted like a fool.

    Victor brought the violin to his cheek, the bow delicately balanced across the strings. He began to play, the music spiraling across the awakening grey world. Colour slowly seeped outwards from his feet, the grey stone of the balcony becoming a burnished maroon. With every note the world below bloomed back into life: a vibrant tapestry of forgotten greens, blues, yellows, pinks and oranges.

    As Sigmund had once told him it could be.

    Victor played, eyes closed, tears rolling down his cheeks. He played as his fingers bled and existence was only the movement of bow on string.

    He played even as grey tanks rumbled past awakening houses towards the minaret.

    Played until their song overwhelmed his.

    @imageronin
    498 words
    #flashdog

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  6. Jacki Donnellan

    The Screaming
    497 words
    @Donnellanjacki

    “I am here,” I tell him, “because I killed my violin.”

    He leans forward across his desk and regards me with narrow eyes, as if I am fine print.

    “You…killed your violin?” he says.

    I sigh, and I tell my story once again.

    ***

    I possessed her first, before she sought to possess me.

    I am not talking of ownership, for that was simply a matter of rubels changing hands beside the Moscow Conservatorium.

    No, I mean that I cherished her; I worshipped and guarded her. Like a protector; like a friend.

    And like a lover.

    During the brightly lit evenings, we performed, together, for the crowds. And at night, I would play her in the dark, and she would sigh and sing, for me, the sound of her notes unravelling like gold thread through the darkness of my lonely apartment.

    And together we would weep, and her G minor tears would fall like raindrops on my skin.

    We were happy.

    And then, Nina entered my life.

    She was a flautist, and she whispered and breathed her feather-light music into my life until she became all that I desired.

    And I ignored, at first, the way Nina would frown as we lay in each other’s arms in my apartment. “I hear something, Mikhail,” she would say, and I would smile and shake my head, kissing her nose, while the muffled, pizzicato protests from inside my violin case landed like prodding fingers on the sheets.

    And I continued to practise diligently by day, even though my violin would now give me nothing but pathetic mewling and stringent, sharp whining, no matter how gently and delicately I bowed the strings.

    Eventually I was warned that my position in the Ensemble was not secure, should my playing continue to decline. But Nina remained loyal, and agreed to become my wife. And like a fool I rushed out, that night, to buy champagne, leaving my lovely Nina alone in my apartment.

    With my violin.

    When I returned it was too late. Nina was cowering on the floor with her hands pressed hard over her ears. Piercingly high harmonics screeched and squealed, ripping the air like claws, and screaming atonal glissandi streamed down the walls like blood.

    I did not hesitate. I snatched up my violin and I dashed her and smashed her, again and again, onto the ground.

    And when she eventually lay broken, and silent, I raised my heel, and I crushed her splintered body into sawdust.

    *****

    “But still, today,” I explain, “so many years later, my violin has not let me go. You see she still screams, unceasingly, inside my head.”

    The doctor is silent. Then: “Mr Anosov, I believe that what you are suffering from-apart from a rather vivid imagination- is tinnitus. It is very common, you know, in violin players…”

    I listen, with a weary heart, to the same advice that I have received so many times before.

    The screaming in my head becomes louder.

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  7. this once and future life

    The Fiddler
    (499 words)
    joann.varnell@gmail.com

    “Be still!”

    “I can’t see!” Audrey peered over the stone wall.

    “Yeah, well, if he sees us we’re dead!”

    “Come on, Jon, you really believe the legends? He’s just some crazy old man who plays violin at sunrise every morning. That’s all.”

    “Really? Then why has he been doing this longer than anyone can remember? He’s immortal.” Jon pulled his heavy winter coat around his ears and tried to keep from falling.

    “I want to get closer.” Audrey boosted herself up and over the top, dropping down onto The Fiddler’s property. “Coming?” She dared her brother.

    “Dang it!” Jon climbed up and dropped beside his twin.

    They crouched in the dark behind elderberry bushes that framed the perimeter of his property. They had heard the rumors. That he was a vampire and whenever there was a disappearance, it was blamed on him. Some called him the creator and worshipped him for the weather. Others said he was the destroyer. Death.

    Jon lost a bet with his friends and to pay up, had to get a video of the old man playing the violin. Audrey came along for fun and so she could tease Jon for being afraid.

    “I’m going to get closer; coming or are you too scared?” Audrey didn’t wait before she slunk from bush to bush, moving quietly towards the old stone house.

    “Dang it!” Jon pushed his long, dark hair out of his eyes and crept forward. He was holding his phone, ready to start recording. He reached Audrey just as the front door opened. They both froze.

    Candlelight spilled out from the doorway making the man’s shadow appear to dance on the porch. He was dressed in black and held a weather beaten violin. Deep wrinkles covered his face but he didn’t look old. If the stories were true he would have to be over 100 but he looked like he was in his 60s. He picked up his violin and Jon silently pressed the record button on his phone. Nearly simultaneously the Fiddler turned and looked through the darkness toward where Jon and Audrey were hiding. He got a wicked smile on his face before turning his gaze back to the horizon.

    With the first glide of the bow on the strings, Jon and Audrey heard a lone bird chirp. The violin had a velvety sound and as the note changed, the first ray of sunlight came spilling over the distant hills. The Fiddler kept playing and with each small change he made, new colors showed in the sky. Suddenly, his song changed. It now had a scratchy quality to it and a harsh wind began to blow on the twins. The Fiddler began to play frenetically as he turned toward the kids’ hiding place. The wind became a tornado that swirled around the siblings, wrenching the phone from Jon’s hand. The music got louder and the tornado became stronger until it picked up the kids and carried them back over The Fiddler’s wall.

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  8. voimaoy

    The Storm King
    @voimaoy
    498 words

    You cannot imagine how it used to be, not a spot of water, our mouths dry as the dirt. We couldn’t even cry. Day after day, the sky was unblinking blue. If a puffy white cloud should happen to appear overhead, people would get all excited. But no, it would pass us by, never staying, raining somewhere else.

    Then one day, the Storm King came, driving a wagon with a cloud-gray horse. His eyes flashed like lightning. Zingaro was his name.

    He had eyes for the widow Mendoza. Bianca of the silver braid. They had known each other years before.

    “I can make it rain for you,” he said.

    Why should we believe him, just because of his flashing eyes and storm-gray clothes, the “Storm King” sign on the side of his wagon? We had heard promises and claims before. In fact, Zingaro was even less impressive. He had no gadgets or fancy equipment. He had only a violin.

    “Let me give you a sample,” he said.

    He played an old song, “Spring Rain in the Countryside.” Notes fell like raindrops into our thirsty ears. We could smell the wet earth, the awakening ground. Tears came to our eyes, welling, overflowing. Soon, everyone was weeping. A fountain sprang up, splashing in the square.

    Zingaro stopped. He smiled. He laughed like the fountain at our astonished faces. Slowly, he put down the violin.

    We ran to fill our buckets and jugs, pushing and shoving, as if the fountain would vanish as suddenly as it had appeared. Children splashed each other in the water, squealing with delight. It was wet. It was wild. We didn’t want it to stop.

    “Do you believe me, now?” Zingaro said.

    We showered Zingaro with silver coins, a rain of silver, shining in the dust. Zingaro danced in the silver, round and round, danced like light on water.

    Bianca watched, still unimpressed. “The fountain is pretty,” she said. ” But where’s the rain? The sky is still blue.” She smiled as if it were some joke.

    Zingaro picked up the violin again. “For you, Bianca, my tears and rain.”

    Now the music from the violin grew darker, and a cool breeze stirred our hair. We gathered around Zingaro. We held each others’ hands.

    We could see clouds on the horizon, growing like a wave on the sea. Darker and darker the wave grew, until it covered the sky. Zingaro played faster and faster, moving us to dance. Zingaro played thunder and lightning. The first drops of rain fell in the dust.

    Soon, our clothes were soaking wet, and our faces, too. Our hands grew slippery as we danced around, our feet making tracks in the mud.

    “I love you!” Bianca cried, throwing her arms around Zingaro. Only then, did he stop. And the rain stopped.

    They drove away together. We still have the fountain splashing in the square. Clouds come and go, now. Some are gray and stay with rain. Some are silver, trailing like a braid.

    Reply
  9. Grace Black

    Sound of Vanity

    The coldest day came in the spring. The final frost revealed his shame as Z found himself down by the riverbed, again. White blossoms peppered the estuary limbs, and he stood in silence, remembrance. A moment of peace, for a moment is all he’d ever have.

    His son had been the most lovely creature, hand delivered by the gods. Though, that was the source of the problem. Being lovely was the curse. A mother constantly doting, flocks of friends, gaggles of girls all contributed to his ultimate demise. Narcissus had been raised with the hands of entitlement and Z had left his fingerprints of contribution as well.

    Z knew Narcissus would have remarkable talent as soon as he’d placed the instrument into his son’s boyhood hands. The dexterity of his pinky finger showed great promise. He taught his son all he knew but couldn’t execute himself.

    The boy quickly transformed the strings into diaphanous webs of joy, permeating the silence. Narcissus drew large crowds and filled the Earth with music. Unparalleled allure washed over the lands, blanketing the disillusionment to come.

    It was early spring, and Narcissus had been down by the riverbed when he discovered something unnerving. He’d discovered what beautiful was for the first time. He’d heard others speak of his comeliness but never had he seen anyone to rival his admirers’ words.

    Early morning waters pooled near the margins of earth, and Narcissus bent for a closer look. There, in the crystalline surface, was beautiful. Geometry, cleft in the chin, angular jaw, slopes and lines, coordinates he couldn’t stop inspecting. Each visit revealed another layer of his infatuation, honeyed flesh, cerulean eyes. He became withdrawn from life and completely immersed in the image inside the pools of his own eyes.

    Z tried to get the boy to understand the fruitless efforts of his obsession, but Narcissus wouldn’t listen. He withdrew further from the land, abandoning his music, renouncing his role in the cosmos. Crows circled and bled their bleary notes of dissonance into the void, and Narcissus never stopped staring at his own reflection.

    It was in the hours of twilight, a late spring eve when Narcissus had begun to drink of the river. A whisper came instructing him to fill himself full of the very thing that reflected his beauty. Perhaps they could become one, he thought, live with his true love for all of eternity. He drank of that river until he could drink no more.

    With the instrument clutched tight in his arms and bow firm in his hand, Z stood and appraised the paperwhites in bloom. Delicate blossoms on sturdy stems protruded from the earth around the mouth of the embankment. The mouth his son had drunk the poisoned waters from, the waters Z himself had poisoned.

    Narcissus had become useless. With the help of the gods, Z had found another use for him. Now he bloomed every spring for all to enjoy. Though, the cost to Z was an eternity of silence.

    @blackinkpinkdsk
    500 words
    #flashdog

    Reply
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  11. C Connolly

    The Strings of Succession

    @FallIntoFiction
    #FlashDog

    (500 words)

    The stage is set and Cal knows it; even before his entrance announces it. Still, he keeps playing; his fingers moving through the runs; scaling the strings into the arpeggios and double stops which comprise the sinister motifs of the concerto. The energy drives it forwards; almost involuntarily. Soon – too soon – he is finished and it is over. He is waiting. Cal’s feet walk him over to where the lone figure is standing.

    “We meet,” he says.

    “We do?” Cal enquires, politely. “I’m not sure…?”

    “Again,” the dark haired man says, before Cal can continue. “Payment’s due for services rendered.”

    “I..”

    “No point prevaricating,” the man interjects. “Your signature’s right here. You’ll hardly deny that?” A bony hand is waving a white page at him, with a scrawled name at its foot. His own; in handwriting he recognises, albeit scratchy and brownish ink faded to a point requiring him to squint at its scribble. Cal is silent for a moment. “Sad to say – or not so much so – you’ve had your time. I take on the flow; not on the ebb. In the interests of all, considering everything,” the man says. “You’ll agree that’s for the best?”

    After a pause, filled with nothing but silence, the man speaks again. “The strings are wearing. Song’s thinning, slowly. Heard it clearest in the arpeggios, from where I was. Needs dealing with before they’re no use. Replacement’s the answer.” He nods; decisive. “Will you or will I?” he asks.

    “I? Pardon?” Cal asks, blinking. “Look, I’ve really…”

    “Will you oblige? Or must I? You’d likely prefer to do it yourself, I’m guessing.” The man is watching him; apparently waiting for an answer. He huffs, digging in his pockets, before pulling out the knife, its blade catching the lights overhead upon its surface.

    “You’ll remember now, I trust?” the man says, gently; prompting.

    Cal’s mouth is slightly open, as his eyes take in the blade. Slowly, he raises them towards the man in front of him.

    “Music’s at its climax for you,” the man says. “Means strings in peak condition. Timings always key in this, you see. You do see, I think? Now? What I mean?”

    Cal is nodding without volition. He finds he does, whilst wishing for the opposite.

    “Balance of the bargain requires paying,” the man says. “Music’s played out, almost. Dues are owed.”

    Cal opens his mouth and takes a breath.

    “It was always down to you to ask the terms,” the man says. “To barter a bargain as against the skills. Didn’t matter at the time. Does a bit more now, I’ll wager? Still waiting for the one who thinks far enough ahead. Always the wishes and wants with you, I find.”

    The man’s eyes meet Cal’s. “Guts for strings now, please,” he demands. “Next request means stringing processes out. Not to be recommended, all things considered. You’ll serve ‘til your successor’s ready to replace you.”

    Cal finds himself taking the knife and angling it below his stomach.

    Reply
  12. David Borrowdale

    @MicroBookends
    500 words

    The Zingaro Exclusive

    [REDACTED], where Zingaro requested we meet, is surprisingly modest considering the virtuoso’s wealth. I join him at a small table set back in the gloom. He has a small glass of sherry in front of him, and on the floor by his side is a black case that can only be his violin. It is a great personal honour, and an indication of the respect The Fiddler commands, that Zingaro requested this interview.

    Why have you decided to break your secrecy and talk to me today?

    This is my first interview. It will also be my last. After I tell my story I will disappear and live out what time I have left in solitude.

    Why here? These surroundings are hardly befitting a man of your stature.

    You’d be surprised at the establishments I frequent. But it is the establishment across the street that brings us here. [REDACTED] was where I bought this violin some fifty years ago. I was a poor music student living above a crêperie. The neck on my violin had just snapped. No, I had snapped it in a fit of petulance. I scoured the used music shops and junk shops and was about to go cap in hand to my father for a loan until I saw it in the window.

    This violin? You’ve played this violin your whole career?

    I’ve never touched another. It was an ugly thing, scratched and dented, but cheap. What if I told you the violin that has filled concert halls all over the world cost less than this glass of sherry? Yes, it was ugly, but the sound? Well, you know about the sound. But as soon as I got the instrument home and played a few notes, I knew I had bought something unnatural.

    Unnatural? The sound was different from other instruments?

    Yes and no. The tone was sweeter and richer than any other instrument I’ve ever heard, but what was unnatural was the way I saw the notes. As soon as horsehair caressed catgut, the fluid notes solidified and formed people: a G3 breve, deep and long, a fat old lady; an E7 demisemiquaver, shrill and short, a baby, its skin pink and wrinkled; a middle C quaver, soft and satisfying, a young woman, curvy and sensual, one hand on her hip, the other beckoning me to follow.

    You’re speaking metaphorically of course?

    I am not. And just as I brought the notes to life, so I killed them when the note ended. How many notes have I played in my career? Some millions I’m sure, and every one has died before my eyes. I’m tired. I’m tired of witnessing death. Publish this interview verbatim if you wish, but disclose neither [REDACTED] nor [REDACTED]. All I request in payment is that you return this instrument to [REDACTED]. Don’t be tempted to buy it back. The cost is too high.

    May I take one final photograph of you holding your violin?

    Yes. But don’t expect me to smile.

    Reply
  13. Laura

    Laura
    laura.pinhey at gmail.com
    499 words

    Wish

    They stumble over toys, bags of fertilizer, and charcoal grills. They slip on the dewy grass, muttering “fuck.” Jeff stops and nods toward a yard. “Check it out” he says. In the moonlight they can just make out the objects there: a wooden man with a blue Ball jar head and a garden spade violin, a swaybacked horse of tree branches, a tin bird with bike reflector eyes, all displayed like trophies. In the center of the yard sits a crumbling stone well. Jeff ruffles the flange of hair spilling over his collar, takes a swig of Everclear, and hands the bottle to Emmie. She shakes her head. “What the hell is wrong with you tonight?” Jeff asks.

    “Nothing.” Emmie stuffs her hands into her pockets. “I’ve just had enough.”

    “I can’t believe you never heard of this place,” Jeff says. But Emmie has heard of it. She’s found excuses to wander by, alone, many times. If Jeff knew she thought the place was cool she would never hear the end of it. “Must be some kind of devil worshiper or fag to have shit like that in your yard,” Jeff says.

    “Maybe.” Emmie decided months ago that the yard was an artist’s. An artist was what Emmie thought Jeff was when she first saw him in the back of civics class, drawing a perfect replica of the inside cover of Led Zeppelin Four. She moves to the well, her sneakers squeaking on the grass.

    Jeff follows. “Maybe,” he mocks. Emmie dips her fingers into the water and then touches her face. “Jesus, Ember, that water stinks.”

    “Emmie,” she says, wiping her fingers on her jeans. “I told you to call me Emmie.”

    “Here we go again. Emmie. Sounds like some old lady.” Jeff sits down on a brick wall under a tree. “Nasty well.” He lights his pipe and inhales. A seed crackles. Getting stoned is all Jeff wants to do these days. He has stopped drawing. Emmie had grown tired of heaping phony praise on his unoriginal works, anyway. The stuff in this yard, though, Emmie has never seen anything like.

    Emmie peers into the well. “Wishing well,” she thinks. Emmie never knows what to wish for, but she knows she wants something. She digs a penny from her pocket and tosses it in. The penny plops, leaving tiny circles in its wake. Emmie feels her wish fluttering inside her, nameless. A fish leaps from the water, arcing in the air, glistening, water droplets trailing like shooting stars. It splashes back into the water. Emmie gasps.

    “What,” Jeff says through held breath.

    “There’s a fish in the well. It jumped.”

    Jeff snorts and exhales a stream of smoke. “Ember, you are stoned out of your gourd.” But one sip of Everclear is all Emmie has had tonight.

    A window over the backyard fills with light. “Aw, shit,” Jeff says. He falls to his knees, groping the overgrown brush for his dropped pipe. Emmie runs, not looking back.

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  14. milambc

    String Theory (500 words)
    @brett_milam

    Andy was trying to remember what her name felt like on his tongue. He hadn’t let its reverberations caress the back of his tongue in years. He liked to think it used to give him a warm, tingly sensation, but he suspected it just as easily could be like the coarse wind that had embedded itself within his cheeks.

    Which Andy meant in a loving way, as love was more akin to a gale force wind than lukewarm water lapping at your feet. It was meant to be intense, to draw blood.

    “I’ll play for you, if it comes to that. Something melancholy, appropriate, like Shostakovich or Sibelius, maybe Dvořák, dear,” he’d said to her, as her head rested in his lap.

    “Dvořák’s are always a bit harsh, like the beauty one finds in a thunderclap,” she said, a playfulness behind it. “Mozart, play something from Mozart, everyone knows him.”

    “Oh, Libby, isn’t Mozart passé now? To the average person, Mozart is classical music and they know nothing of…”

    She stopped his impending classical music rant, which she’d heard a thousand times previously and could quote word for word, with a hard kiss, harder than she meant and she held it longer than usual, too. The electricity was still there and for a moment, she forgot about her own lack of it.

    Forged lips with a lover, not much else compared to the sensation, like you were lost and found all at once.

    He instinctively reached for where his violin usually was; his bedside table. It wasn’t there. He’d left it downstairs when he serenaded her after a glass of Château Latour from 1999. Not yet vintage, but it was meant to be lathered on the tongue at a young age.

    “And it will come to that, Andy, you know,” she said, a finality to it that was more bitter than the Latour.

    He swept his hand in the air dismissing this, as if it that could swat away the leukemia.

    “Elizabeth,” he said. Elizabeth was his defense mechanism. It was his “tell” to her that he wasn’t ready to discuss it, as if he was the one withering away day-by-day.

    In a way, he was. Solace was to be found in his violin, however, where his hands were in control.

    But not on that day. He told her he would. The one thing he was sure he could do. Leading up to it, he pictured the vibrations of that magnificent violin wrapping itself around her casket with a warm glow, the last embers of a dying love, the living kind at least.

    When he stood a few feet from the casket, rows of people opening their ears expecting…Mozart, he found his fingers paralyzed. It was as if he’d woken up and forgotten how to speak.

    It was like experiencing the dying whir of Libby’s machine again.

    Now he stood, years after the funeral ended, holding his violin and its case, like a body bag.

    He still hadn’t played.

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