The Last Piece

October 7, 2008
By Rui Zhong, Gaithersburg, MD

Music plays from the rotting, disheveled house as it falls more and more into bits each night.

Everyone on the street knows that the long-abandoned two-story house at the corner of Bridger’s Terrace and Thorn Row was haunted by something or other.

“I swear by my mother’s grave that there are ghouls movin’ about inside that house, knocking things about and screeching that nasty-sounding tune!” Mr. Davis, the mailman always swears. Of course, no one believes him about ghouls specifically, though, because his mother still is alive and well, and comes to visit him each winter

But no one denies that the strange, keening wail of a violin can be heard even from blocks away, and only heard on cloudy nights, those nights when a fellow is gladdest to be at home, safe and snug beneath his blankets and sheets.

The songs vary from time to time, on certain nights mournful-sounding dirges but on other nights cheerful ditties and ballads that are familiar to the ear and ticklish to the heart and soul. The violin’s strings sing as an invisible bow hits the notes perfectly, playing a sonata that makes the eyes of even the deaf water inexplicably.

Despite the incontrovertible fact that there is sound coming from somewhere inside the house and the place looks crumbled apart, there is no way in. The doors are strong as iron and not even Mr. Brady, the Fire Marshall, could break a way in. After fruitless attempts with axes to the wood and screwdrivers to the hinges alike, the townsfolk gathered around the outside of the house one chilly fall night and ponder. At last Mrs. Williams, the oldest of the people in the small town, approaches the ramshackle building, hobbling with each step. She raises her walking stick and with one decisive smack slams the front door with it.

A rattling, low creak resounds from the house as the door swings open and the small crowd is covered in dust from the foyer, which clouds instantly. It takes a minute before the townsfolk recover, still coughing.

“Well, what are we waiting for?” Mrs. Williams snaps while the people stand dumbfounded, still peering inside the house. “Let’s finally find out what’s making that racket! I need my beauty sleep, after all!”


In the far reaches of the broken-down house, the small scrap of a young man that once belonged to the upper walks of life awakes once more.

The house is his world. Even as everything else fades and breaks and leaves to somewhere beyond his reach, the building still stands faithfully by him, as does the violin, its notes refined with age. It suited him. After all, the violin was the only thing of value that he has left, in death.

In the quiet cloudy cloaks of night he awakens from slumber and sings through the instrument. Although Marcus’ own voice has long since rotted, the bow becomes his tongue and the notes his words. He sings of love and life and death each night as the house around him falls, but never enough to reveal its carefully-sheltered contents.

One night he finds after finishing his piece that like Scheherazade after the thousand and first night, there is no more he can sing. The story is finished, the audience for the song long gone. Marcus stands alone in the room, hearing the dull wooden crack of something on the door downstairs. He gathers up the music with its faded ink and takes a bow to the unseen cheering crowd. At last, he is content.


The townspeople ascend the staircase with the weight of curiosity from many years past. Old Mrs. Williams hobbles at the front of the crowd, rheumy eyes set on the lone second-floor room, the source of the music.

All is silent as the rusty knob turns slowly and the door opens. The room is empty, save for an old violin that still shines, its bow laid neatly across the strings, as if its musician had left it mid-song.

The author's comments:
I've always loved ghost stories, of the supernatural that we could never quite reach. What interests me most about them in media and in writing is how they choose to communicate to the world we live in. Music in itself is its own language that this particular ghost uses to convey the beauty he sees in the world with even as he departs it.

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