A blessing for the unhearing
He was a great hulking figure who had bottles for fingers;
in the middle of a full-moon night, he’d stand over your grave and tap those
fingers on your tombstone, making creepy, tinkly music. And if you’d been
cremated, well, too bad, no music for you.
At least that’s the story the kids told at sleep-overs.
What was so special about his bottle music, anyway? If you
were dead, it would bring you back to life—zombie life, but life nevertheless.
If you were alive when you heard that music, you fell under his spell and had
to do his bidding from sunset to sunrise. And his bidding included sneaking
out, theft, vandalism, tagging, picking fights, and risky sex—among other, less
Well, so said the church ladies.
Melanie was a straight-A, nerdy clarinet player in the
high-school marching band when she heard the music late one night while
studying for finals. Her parents and little brother were asleep; she was the
only living soul in her house awake at midnight. It was as quiet as a tomb in
her bedroom; she was such a nerd that she never studied with music on.
And so she heard it: the simple, twinkly-tinkling of bottle
music. It might have come from a glass wind-chime on the front porch…except
there was no wind blowing that night and no glass wind-chime hanging on their
front porch. She chewed her pencil and listened. There it was again.
The tune seemed familiar. Or did it? Perhaps because it was
so uncomplicated, it only felt familiar. She got up from her desk and looked
out her upstairs window. The streetlights cast deep shadows on the front lawn,
and in one of them she saw movement—an overlarge figure, thick as an old tree
Multiple glints from the figure winked in the dark, and she
heard the music again. Being precocious, she wrote it down, and at the top of
the page, named it “Melanie’s Melancholy Melody.” In the morning, she’d take
the notations to her music teacher, maybe earning extra credit. She didn’t need
it, but still, it couldn’t hurt.
After all, she was “the teacher’s pet,” her classmates
griped beside their lockers.
Closing her textbook and fastidiously putting away her
pencil and calculator, Melanie tiptoed downstairs and, quiet as the proverbial
mouse, unlocked the front door. She slipped outside. The hulking figure
twitched his bottle fingers, making that sickly clinky-clanking, and she walked
towards him as helpless as a fish hooked on a line. The shadowy monster opened
his body up like a raincoat and Melanie stepped inside his shifting
This is the only explanation for her crazy,
out-of-character behavior on that night, her circle of girlfriends defended.
Melanie went on a rampage—broke car windows, screamed
obscenities outside the star footballer’s house, disrobed and smeared her pale
body with condiments she’d found in the dumpster outside the local burger hut.
She danced like a lunatic in the moonlit churchyard and scratched vulgar
phrases into the gravestones of respected spinsters. She did all this and much
more before the sun rose.
Her parents, blaming drugs, sent her to rehab, or so her
teachers whispered in the lounge.
When Melanie’s folks cleaned out her room, looking for banned
substances, they found the sheet of curious music she’d composed in the middle
of the night. They turned it over to the music teacher in hopes of
rehabilitating their daughter’s reputation. The music teacher read the score
and smiled at her talent. Yes, the marching band would play her song at the
half-time show of that season’s last football game.
It would be a fitting tribute, the high school
administrators all agreed.
And so, a month later, after many daylight hours of
rehearsals, on the night of a full moon, the marching band played “Melanie’s
Melancholy Melody.” In the stands, parents teared up, pondering how brave and
tragic the girl was—thinking, what if this horrible thing had happened to one
of their own children.
What actually happened after that half-time show on that
particular October night was much worse, the historians ascertained.
“Melanie’s Melancholy Melody” drifted over that small town
in the otherwise quiet night like a sweet, smothering smoke from a sacrificial
bonfire. Floating through the streets, it cloaked the minds of everyone within
earshot with a bright blanket of vivid hallucinations. The entire town went
But the most horrible, impossible thing happened in the
graveyard. Tombstones shifted and fell. Coffins buried under six feet of damp,
worm-threaded earth buckled, splintered, and broke open.
The ancient and the newly dead all clawed their way to the
surface. They pulled their rotted remains out of the ground, and, rising like
moldy ghosts, shuffled and staggered their way out of the cemetery. They
spilled into the small town’s moonlit streets like a plague.
And, amid all this chaos, walked a hulking, shadowy figure
with bottles for fingers. He was looking for the girl who had scored his song, looking
for his one true love. In a frenzy, he smashed his hands together, and made new
music—a wedding march.
Hillary Lyon, Lyonwrite@gmail.com,
who wrote BP #85’s “Bottle Music” (+ BP #83’s “Strange Music Follows Her
Everywhere” and BP #78’s “The Lucky Break”) lives in southern Arizona, where
she founded and still edits poetry journals for Subsynchronous Press. Her
stories have appeared in 365 Tomorrows,
Eternal Haunted Summer, Night to Dawn,
Postcard Shorts, The Sirens Call, Trembling with Fear,
Yellow Mama, and numerous horror anthologies such as Alternate Hilarities
5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife, Fright
Mare, More Tales from the Blue Gonk Cafe, My American Nightmare,
Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, Stories from
the Graveyard, Surreal
Nightmares II, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. When not writing,
boxes and furniture in the colorful, Dia de los Muertos style and creates
artwork for horror and pulp-fiction magazines.