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A contented sigh escaped his lips and hung in the vacant subway station. However, weaved within that contented sigh was a thin strand of worry. Of nervousness. Of tension. He knew perfectly well he wasn’t supposed to be here after hours, but he was here nonetheless. He had an extremely legitimate reason, though. He needed to practice. His violin concert was in less than a week and all rehearsal time was imperative. He couldn’t practice in his apartment, for he received complaints daily of “that screechy classical music” from his neighbors. They, apparently, did not share the same love for true music as he.
His faced was laced with wrinkles and flawed with defined crevasses. His skin hung off his bony cheeks feebly, giving him the unsettling appearance that his body was a size too small. His large, leaden eyes were set far into his head and his crusty, chapped lips seemed to permanently sag into a dissatisfied frown. Wispy white hairs were smothered under an argyle tweed cap. He lovingly stroked his violin case as his penny loafers scuffed the blue-and-green tiled subway floor
He could feel a pasty film separate as his lips parted. The familiar click of his violin case opening ricocheted through the station before returning to his ears. He reached for his violin. The glossy, fire-colored wood felt smooth to his touch. He raised his bow and placed it on the strings. Pressing gently, he pulled his bow down. The melody vibrated down his arm and tickled his fingers.
“Why are you here?” a raspy voice whispered menacingly. He tensed. His bony fingers curled around the neck of his violin as he turned to see where it had come from. But, eerily enough, he saw only empty train tracks fading into tunnels of darkness. He shrugged it off and returned to his music, assuming that he had imagined the voice. Complex rhythms and intriguing dynamics flooded the station, envoloping him.
“Coming here was a mistake!” Screamed the voice gleefully, enjoying the old man’s terror. He released his clutch on the bow, letting it fall to the floor with a clatter. The beautiful music ceased and was replaced by a sharp intake of breath.
“W-who…who are you?” He stuttered timidly. The only response was a cackle of sinister laughter. It seemed so close…like someone -or something- was talking into his ear, but when he turned around he saw he was still alone.
He heard another voice. “Just ignore it and practice you fool!” it said. It was stern, but clear, like his father’s was when he was angry. He jerked his head around to see if this voice had an owner. It didn’t. He placed his violin in its case delicately, and snapped the clasps shut. Sitting down on a bench he squeezed his eyes shut, as if that would make the voices go away.
“Why are you leaving?” a soft voiced purred. It was tiny and tinkled like bells. “Play me one more song, will you?” it coaxed. He was mesmerized. His fingers felt for the clasps. A voice like this one couldn’t be evil. It was too pretty. Much too pretty.
The next voice was familiar to him. “Here we go again, Joe.” This voice belonged to a sharply dressed cop. An exasperated expression hid beneath the officer’s young, chiseled features. “Why must we go through this every night? IT IS ILLEGAL for you to play here after hours. For God’s sake, Joe,” the cop muttered tiredly.
“I’m sorry,” said the old main, unremorsefully, “But I need to practice for my concert. You already know that though, Bart.”
“For one thing, my name is Damien. For another, you have no concert. Not tonight, not tomorrow. Not ever.”
“Poppycock! It’s at the Matterson Hall for the Fine Arts. Stop being foolish Bart,” he replied defiantly.
“Joe, the Matterson Hall burned down forty years ago. And my name is Damien!” Joe simply shook his head disdainfully. “Let me walk you back to the nursing home.”
“Bart, I live in an apartment on Fifty-second Street. What is wrong with you? Have you had too many shots tonight?” Damien sighed with pity.
“You lost your apartment four years ago. You are crazy and you forgot to pay the rent, remember?” Damien continued patiently. “And every night I’m stuck bringing you back to the nursing home.” After a few moments of vigorous head shaking from Joe and repeated reasoning from Damien, Joe finally agreed to return to the nursing home, if only to prove Damien wrong. He looked around and saw the sun sink beneath the horizon.
Bright slivers of light pierced the darkness, cutting through the black like butter. A yellow cab pulled over to the curb. Joe watched as the gray-tinted window rolled down, revealing the cab driver’s fleshy face inch by inch. “Same place as usual?” he grunted. Damien nodded. Joe looked up at Damien with the hopeful eyes of a five year old, “See you tomorrow, Bart?”
Damien looked at the old man with pained eyes, “Yep, you always do.” Joe climbed into the back of the canary colored car and shut the door. Damien watched as the thick, black, rubber tires rolled on the pavement, carrying Joe home. Joe sat in the back seat fingering with the clasps on his case, and, that night, he heard no voices.