Black Petals Issue #85, Autumn, 2018

Bottle Music
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Bottle Music-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Bridge to Forever-Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Door County Getaway-Fiction by Roy Dorman
It's Out There-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Napper's Holler-Chapter 4-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Napper's Holler-Chapter 5-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
Napper's Holler-Chapter 6-Continuing Fiction by A. M. Stickel
The Gift-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Gifted Ones-Fiction by David Powell
The Seeker-Fiction by Ken Hueler
Blood/Brain Barrier-6 Poems by Will H. Blackwell, Jr.

Art by Hillary Lyon 2018

Bottle Music


By Hillary Lyon


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 tasteful, acts.

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 trunk.

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 kaleidoscopic madness.

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 mad.

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.

The End


Hillary Lyon,, 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, she hand-paints boxes and furniture in the colorful, Dia de los Muertos style and creates artwork for horror and pulp-fiction magazines.

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