Black Petals Issue #101 Autumn, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
BP Artists and Illustrators
Dig Deep, the Therapist Said: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Dinner Club: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
God of the Winds: Fiction by Scáth Beorh
Head Pot: Fiction by Spencer Harrington
His Deadly Muse: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Patrick Hatrick: Fiction by Bruce Costello
Squawking Chimes: Fiction by Robert Pettus
The Courier: Fiction by Billie Owens
The Midnight Sonata: Fiction by David Hopewell
The Wolves are Coming: Fiction by Mauri Orr Stone
Abduction: Flash Fiction by Laura Nettles
I'm Your Garlic:Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Ho/Ma:i - (Ho-maaa-ee): Flash Fiction by Rani Jayakumar
Mona Wants to Die, but She Lets the Weather Decide:Flash Fiction by Riham Adly
The Cookie Crumbles: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Right Knife: Flash Fiction by David Barber
A Devilish Matter of Disinvitation: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Abhor the Light!: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Shadow House-A Writer's Retreat: Poem by Carl E. Reed
Accursed Personae: Three excerpted Poems by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler
Remember When We Watched "Kill Bill" Together: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
I Die, You Die: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Northbound Train: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Haunted Liquor Cabinet: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Candlelight Killer: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Wooden Soldiers: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Curse of Verse: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
When a Star Dies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker

David Hopewell: The Midnight Sonata

Art by Henry Stanton © 2022

The Midnight Sonata


by David Hopewell



And I swear to you, Mouton, I have always been of sound mind.  For as you will see, every action of mine can be explained with utmost rationality.

I say, the house I had lived in since my birth had held quite a unique fascination for me—the bats in the third-story garrets in particular, being a constant mainstay.  Evenings were spent walking through the graves of the family plot, and I occasionally stopped to admire the cypress and cedar, which grew fervently in the garden.  But what possessed my thoughts, my feelings, and my actions the most as a young man was my knowing father.  My love of fine Burgundy, my fluency in Latin, my taste in modern art—all come from that gentleman of unrivaled refinement.

You see, I am fully aware that you have heard where I grew up was a bad place, with nothing other than tales of evil attached to its reputation; and while you may not like what you are about to hear, I assure you I would not have wanted to be reared in any other setting.

As you know, my paternal line had always been blessed with the gift of musical ability, and with the rare and special talent we referred to as “perfect pitch”.  I believe it was you who once challenged me to a test, and I named every note the guests had played upon the pianoforte, no matter the melodic or harmonic combination.  How I did not know what a curse it was!

The natural course to take professionally was that of my father, and his father—that of a composer and conductor for the court.  But growing up in that treacherous manor was not a simple task.  I clearly recall in my adolescence, my father, once in a state of psychosis, had rehearsed the entire Die Kunst der Fuge on the pipe organ for a straight twenty-six hours.  No one had dared approach him or inquire about it during that time.  But when he attempted a similar feat with the court’s philharmonic orchestra, a riot ensued after the ninth hour of rehearsal.  I remember the piece succinctly; ‘twas Beethoven’s Fifth and it was the orchestra’s premiere of it in this part of the country.  I had never heard it before, since I was too deathly sick when it was performed in Vienna, nor had I ever laid eyes upon the score.

I was honored to be asked by the Director, especially at such a young age, to replace my father on the podium.  Need I tell you what I felt when I flailed my arms to the first downbeat?  Words cannot relate, although Beethoven himself once described the opening four notes in a rapid motif as “Fate knocking upon the door.”  Until recently, for most of my life the Fifth was my most favorite piece in all of music.

The concerts were a resounding success, and I replaced my father permanently as conductor of the orchestra.  It was at that time my father’s countenance became quite nervous.  My chamber, with a view of the grounds, lets much light in at night, and I saw my father’s shadowy form beside my bed occasionally, standing and watching my restless slumber.  I feared he went mad, because he regularly accused my mother and me of plotting to murder him.  We therefore removed all sharp and blunt instruments from the entire house.

It is at this time I must relate to you the design of the estate hidden from public view; even you have not seen it, Mouton.  Up the western wall, vines of fungi grew up to the apex of the black slate roof.  A chimney corresponded to the massive fireplace in my room.  From the back of the house, one was in earshot of the pervasive, hideous howling of wolves, sounding like screams.  The air was always filled with magic and horror.

Most peculiar of all was the castle-like turret made of cracked, hand-carved story-stone, standing from the ground to the roof beside a brass lightning rod.  It had deep-set stained glass windows with crosspanes and was adorned with shutters of black and silver.  As a child, I used to imagine the discolored, lifelike gargoyles at the top of it moving at midnight as though they breathed the breath of life.  Perhaps they threw the crumbled stones of the decaying masonry to the grassy knoll below.

The path of cobblestone surrounding the house abruptly ended near the turret, its finality secured by a black wrought iron fence.  A gothic archway with two grated gates led from the garden and was closed off by overgrown, impenetrable rows of thorny bushes as bare as bones year round.  The sight of the entire scene was frightful and fantastic, and loomed at the west end of the lot.

While I never gave much effort to it, I was never able to find an entrance to the turret, but it did lurk just on the other side of my bedroom wall.  Sounds could easily be heard from the other side, since the partition was constructed not of stone, but of mortar and wood; and the turret must have been hollow inside because noises reverberated easily from within its belly.  Furthermore, my bed rested against the wall, making it impossible not to hear any activity on the other side.  I often heard the low-pitched sound of my father’s heavy footsteps on a wooden stair, descending into a large, hollow chamber like that of a dungeon.  If I fell asleep, I would be awakened by the same footsteps climbing the stairs, and I would look at my pocket watch and see the time as just nearing the midnight hour.  On several occasions I heard my father’s voice, full of revenge and heinous laughter, and then for reasons still somewhat vague to me, a second, high-pitched, pair of footsteps on the wooden stair, scurrying and tripping over itself.  Irrational feelings and erratic emotions dominated his frenzied mind.  The deeds he did were in cold blood, the victims never knew what was coming.

I know it seems as though I knew my father well, but in truth, he was shady to me and his background perverse; his senses remote and strange.

The reason for what he tried to do to the famous writer had something to do with that author’s ignorance of musical instrument craftsmanship, as his offer for the clavier was well below its worth.  Nevertheless, I felt at the time my father’s reaction was severely unjustified.

Unexpected events, such as the one I am about to reprise, filled his life, which ended grotesquely in a bloodbath that involved his own death on an autumn night with a waning moon.  His overconfidence was his downfall, but he led the victim down to the underground vaults, the lantern squeaking as it swayed.  I heard them light the torches on the walls.

Down the corridor he led that famous writer, perhaps under the pretense to see the clavier, and I heard the victim in a drunken stupor, moaning like a mummy.  Their hearts did beat and thud deep within their chests, louder than the tock of the pendulum of the grandfather clock in the great hall.  I later found out that in the dungeon, a sickle was hiding behind a purple tapestry which hung behind the Machine—a device of torture—hardly seen if it weren’t for a candle lying close to the black ottoman beneath it.  To say the least, the suspense was dreadful, the crime planned for him you could not have of imagined, Mouton.

But the victim in distress received outside assistance from a young man simply trying to sleep in his room on the other side of the wall.  As I could not bear to hear the horrific scene unravel before me, I waited for a pause in the sounds the men were making, and ever so boldly…rapped on the wall four times, in a rapid motif, not knowing what would be the consequence.

The events as I was later told took place thusly: after a moment of silence there was the sound of a struggle.  In my father’s cranium, the victim lodged the scythe’s blade.  Before my distraction, my father’s hands had been around the victim’s neck, and my father’s raven eyes remained open when he fell down dead.

For several years, a haunted feeling pervaded the manor, and I awoke each night from strange dreams, their exact details I cannot remember.  I heard noises come from underneath the bed; sometimes I noticed it was the family cat.  For hours, I would stare into the darkness like a statue, and hear some movement by the chamber door.  I wondered which of my deep breaths would be my last, and asked myself who was there with me.

I returned to the house after being away for many years, even though it was mine immediately after my father’s death.  My mother had passed away after going insane.  Interestingly, I found my return a joyous occasion, a place to regain my strength from worldly travels and touring with the philharmonic.

Regardless of this asylum around me now, I was and still am perfectly sane.  Mouton, you must understand the house’s eloquence upon my arrival had no equal in all of history, not even Versailles.  I missed my father immensely and visited his grave often in the plot, but I practiced music less.

Over the next several weeks, my temperament became rather agitated, and I found it difficult to sleep at night.  With time, my attention completely turned to the subject of the western turret.  After exploring certain anomalies regarding the construction of various rooms, I discovered the entrance to the hidden staircase in the antechamber to the conservatory on the second floor.  My footsteps echoed on the wood.  Well into the waking hours I spent exploring that dreadful place, the dungeon, learning it’s every feature as though learning to play a new instrument.

I soon rationalized that my father’s greatest mistake was bringing his victims to the dungeon for unsatisfactory reasons.  Indeed, it was only what the playwright did that was foolish.  But our friend, Dr. Ockeghem, was a fool, and my introducing him to the Machine was fully deserved.  It was he who had carelessly creased several pages of my first editions upon borrowing them, and adding insult to injury afterwards, declared Goethe a hack!  I shall never know what you gained from his company, Mouton.

Approaching the midnight hour, the frigid air crept into the dungeon, and I knew my efforts that evening would not fail as I was easily able to lead Dr. Ockeghem down to the underground vaults without either of us drinking a sip of wine.  The fool!  Had he known of my second thoughts about the whole matter, he would have accepted a goblet of the finest Burgundy, since his snobbish refusal made my blood boil with anger and contempt.  I led him under the false pretense of evaluating a recent acquisition of several Fuseli paintings I purchased on my last tour.

There was no need for a lantern as I had already lit the torches on the walls.  The imbecile did not even notice the blood stains.  Every ounce of trepidation my victim should have felt was coursing through my own body.  The acrid taste of bile sat on my tongue and chills passed through me.  Moonbeams cascaded down the wooden stairs and the fetid odor of dust and decay flowed around the room.  My knees trembled and I placed my hands upon the doctor.  A man of weak strength, he pleaded with me, “What are you doing?...Wait…What’s going on?”

I was able to hold him down onto the Machine.

“Stop!”  The color of his face turned pallid.

The leather straps, although fraying, fit securely around his wrists, but I had difficulty with the rusty locks.  And something horrible happened that made my hands cover my ears and mouth open agape.  I stumbled and fell to the ground.

Suddenly, Dr. Ockeghem, seeing my prostrated body, pulled his arms out of the straps and fled, eventually telling the authorities about the dungeon and how I attempted to torture and murder him with the Machine.

During my laboring with the locks, I heard…a noise, Mouton.  I swear it.  It came from the turret.  Just for a terrible, brief moment.  Why must I be tormented so?  My ears are a curse!  How did it happen, Mouton?

That sound—the knuckles…the tapping of the bare knuckles on the mortar and wood.  Fate knocking upon the door!




Art by Henry Stanton © 2022

David Hopewell (full name Adam David Hopewell Torkelson) lives in Texas with his two sons and has degrees in Music and Accounting.  Prior to appearing in Black Petals, David’s most recent story (co-written with Lee Clark Zumpe) has appeared in Vol. 5, Issue 3 of Lovecraftiana magazine.   He currently works as a Staff Accountant at a small CPA firm.

Site Maintained by Fossil Publications