All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Color of Dried Blood
It was the color of dried blood, sealed in a wooden furnish.
Others would have called it dark cherry wood. That color was always dried blood to him. But that did not keep him from running his fingers over the surface, did not make it any less welcoming when he sat on its bench for the first time and stared at the yellowed black and white keys he inherited.
He rubbed the dust off a few of the keys. It gathered and stuck to his sweaty fingers. Ignoring it, he reached out again and pressed an aged key. The sound seemed to his ears like a sharp hum, and it sent a flash of startling heat through his body. His breath caught, and he shivered. This piano had memories. Some of them painful. He could feel it in the way it sung, the way the notes faded—no, died—away after hanging in the air for a few long moments. He continued up the line of keys, playing each one in turn and listening to each hum, until—
He frowned, pressing that particular key again. Clink. This was definitely not a hum. This was a broken tinkle, like a music note jutting out at an unnatural angle. Or something disguised as a music note.
He stood up and stepped to the side of the piano, placing his hands on the edge of the top. They slipped slightly as more dust dislodged and stuck to his palms, but he held on. He put his fingers underneath the lid and lifted. The hinges groaned but obliged, and the lid was set so it leaned on the wall behind. His eyebrows furrowed as he peered inside, his neck straining to look at the strings.
Two of them were bent at an odd angle, as if there was something that pushed them apart from their normal position, but the coat of dust made everything too dim to distinguish. He blew at the strings so that the dust swirled up, and before it settled, he caught a dull glint.
There, wedged tightly between two groups of thin steel strings, was a silver locket. Its chain was tangled up in the strings. And not by accident. It was not dropped, but wound deliberately among the strings so that at least one note would be affected when its key was hit. So that was the clink he heard.
With a thumb and forefinger he pulled the locket out, carefully untangling the chain. When he straightened up, more dust on the chain coupled with his still-sweaty fingers made him drop the locket. It hit the floor like a marble. As he bent down to pick it up and tuck it in his pocket, his eyes lingered on the base of the piano. He frowned. It was unusually wide, he thought. As if there was extra backing attached to the rear.
Gripping the back of the piano on one side, he pulled it away from the wall, expecting it to be heavier with the wide base, but it was no more difficult to pull than a normal piano. He went over to the other side and pulled it forward as well, so that the gap between the piano and the wall was wide enough to walk through. The back board was much thinner than it should be; it gave slightly when he pressed it. It echoed when knocked on, and he could hear something rattle inside. So it was hollow.
Something dark near the corner of the back board caught his eye. A small stain, it looked like. He knelt down, moving closer. No, it was not a stain. It was a hole. Chipped, and had just enough room for a couple of his fingers to poke through. He hooked the two fingers, pressing against the board from the inside, and jerked them back, so a little more board broke off into his hand. He did it again, and again, until it was large enough for both hands to fit through. It was too dark inside to make anything out, but there was the scent of something musty if he put his nose close.
With both hands, he broke off the back board bit by bit, causing cracks across the back. The broken bits accumulated on the floor, forgotten as soon as they were dropped. Slowly, shapes began to emerge from the inside, and his breath caught for a second time.
The first thing he recognized was a skull.
There it was, in the top corner, tilted slightly toward the opening but bent forward to accommodate the roof corner, yellowed gray and staring past him with empty eye sockets. He forced himself to look away.
He searched the rest of the opening with his eyes. He could see little else. A dull glint of silver. More dust. He was not so sure if he wanted to see any more. Curiosity was never rewarding, he thought.
But it was always tempting.
He continued breaking off the board, until all that was left were a few jagged edges. It wasn’t until then that he turned his attention to the opening for a closer look at what was inside.
Then as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he slowly picked out the rest; the neck bones beneath, the ribcage. Its legs were folded up and its arms were bent inward at an obscene angle to make it fit. It was the same dim shade of yellowed gray, and tatters of clothing hung in certain places, but most of the bones were bare. It gave the impression that it was surprised to find itself there. The skeleton took up the whole length of the opening, there was little room for anything else.
But there was something else. A couple things, actually.
The first was an old kitchen knife, on the floor under the spine, stained with something dark. He did not have to look any closer to guess what it was. The second was the glint he had seen earlier, coming from the skeleton’s ribcage, something tucked between the bones of the hands that were once clasped together. He reached inside and pulled free a small silver box, much like the locket he had found. It was ornate, rather feminine, and had a tiny keyhole in front. It was locked. He knew where he would find the key.
He fumbled with the locket, trying to pry it open. He brought it up to his mouth and bit down on one side, keeping it balanced between his teeth, regardless of the dirt and dust still on it. Holding the other side, he dug into the small ridge in the middle with his nails until it popped open, and out fell a key. Though the locket itself was dimmed with age, the key was a bright, elaborate silver, and was only big enough to be held on the tip of his fingers.
He inserted it into the keyhole of the box and turned, wondering how the click it made could sound so delicate and ominous at the same time. Inside the box, there was a sheet of paper folded in to fit. He picked it out, setting the box on the floor, now as forgotten as the pile of broken board.
The paper was a thick, creamy white, and the folds were stiff as he opened it. The sloping handwriting was loose and confident, though it shook in certain places. He had to squint to read the words, but there was no mistaking it.
Hello, darling, do you miss me? I couldn’t expect you to think of me that often, but you do have the piano to keep you company. And the memories too, don’t forget those. Remember the first time we played it? It was your wedding gift to me. Were you thinking of Her when you uncovered my eyes to show it to me? Was that smile on your lecherous lips from seeing my face light up or from imagining seeing Hers later that night? Come now, my love, your eyes could never lie to me. You had the most beautiful eyes. They were beautiful when they looked into mine as you held me. They were beautiful when you laughed and teased, and looked past my shoulder at something that wasn’t there. They were beautiful even when they saw the knife in my hand, beautiful even when they looked at me empty when I held you for the last time before I closed the piano. And your blood. Your blood is beautiful, too. I want to remember that blood. Do you regret what you did to me? You shouldn’t. Don’t ever regret anything you did in life, life isn’t for regrets. I don’t regret what I did. I do love you, you know that? And I’m sure you loved me too.
But you loved Her more. Didn’t you?
Well, it is past, no use crying over spilled blood. I am yours. I will always be yours. And you will be mine. Forever. I made sure of that. Wonderful, isn’t it?
It was only after he finished reading that he realized that the paper was shaking slightly, and he stuffed it back into the silver box, snapping it shut and dropping it onto the floor. He never wanted to touch that box again. He stared at the skeleton, and this time he noticed something hidden in the deepest corner.
He pulled himself together, and reached in. His hand was sweaty again. A thick square paintbrush came out wrapped in his fingers. It had dark fingerprint stains on its wooden handle, and most of brush itself was stained with something dark. Something that happened to be the exact same color as the painted wood of the piano.
The color of dried blood.