This story is by Patricia Whitney and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
The noise, like screeching violins wakes me from a deep sleep. The deafening sound that rings in my ears is atonal, harsh and frightening. My entire body is electrified with adrenaline. I sit up and clamp my hands to my ears to try to stifle the piercing sound, but the intense pain causes me to curl up in the fetal position on the bed. I shiver in fear, begging the gods to stop the clamor in my head. My prayers are unanswered, and I continue to roll in misery and pain.
Time is merciless and what seems like hours pass with the relentless discord screaming in my head. I must seek the source to stop it. I creep down the hall on hands and knees, bracing myself against the wall for support. I peer my head around the corner of the living room and spy the source. It is hard for me to comprehend the scene with the noise blocking my ability to think. A beast of unearthly features sits in the corner with an instrument of torture. I see its arms waving back and forth, creating the cacophony that torments me. Is the beast playing the violin? It is horrific in appearance, eyes large and penetrating. Its limbs sinewy, its skin deathly pale, its fur plaited in long ropes. It stares at the floor and doesn’t seem to notice my presence.
All the while, the tempo increases, as if reaching a climatic finale. In my crazed state, I do the unthinkable. There is no time to assess the consequences of my actions. I leap up from my shielded position and grab the throw from the couch. In one sweeping motion I throw it, and my entire body, over the beast. I land with a thud, the instrument slicing into my side. At once the screeching of the instrument ceases, only to be replaced by the howls of the beast. Shrill and agonizing. Its voice screaming in a language I don’t understand. I beat at the covering with my fists to subdue the beast. I throw all my fury and terror into the beating. And just as I sense my strength giving out, the beast silences.
I keep my hold of the beast, assessing my options. I must prevent it from further terror. I must get the beast to the sea and bring a complete and final end to its reign.
Chaos and fear fill me. I can fill her weight on top of me, crushing my bones. At last she has stopped her wailing for now. I remain still and silent, waiting for her to regain her senses. But she pulls me to my feet and out the door.
The wind and rain is indiscernible from my tears. Angry, wet and salty against my lips. My braids are used as a rope to drag me across the rugged terrain. My screams carried away by the wind.
Confused and afraid, I plead with Momma, begging for forgiveness. I pledge to behave and to be a good girl. I promise to be quiet when she has one of her spells. But her angry eyes blaze like the red moon that precedes a storm at sea — wild and furious. I recognize that look. I have been its victim before.
The rocky beach tears at my bare feet as I am dragged down the stormy surf. A trail of blood marks our path, the evidence of a gash from a broken shell. I try to dig my heels into the sand but the impact has little effect on stopping our momentum.
Lighting lights the sky and the crack of the thunder that follows matches the thunder in my chest. My skirt, wet from rain and surf, wraps tight against my thighs. My terror is the fire that fuels my body with heat.
I look around in desperation for my rescuer, but the pending storm has left the beach empty except for Momma and me, destined for the sea.
Exhausted, spent and betrayed, with no hope of being saved, I succumb to my fate. I stop resisting, and run aside her, releasing pressure from her deathly grip. My body relaxes into submission, my heart expanding to include forgiveness. I know deep down she doesn’t mean to hurt me. I know she is acting out of madness, caused by the demons that follow her.
And as the seas rise to meet me, my skirt gently floats to the surface. I don’t struggle against her hand that holds me down. I take one long last breath, and suck in the salty wetness, as if it were the elixir of life. I close my eyes with my last gasp of air. And if a tear slides down my cheek, it is stolen by the sea forever.
All that remains is peace, and the last lick of salt on my lips.
Moments or years go by, I do not know which. I watch her from above, sitting by the fire alone in her grief and guilt. Her skirts wet and dripping around her ankles. My violin, my only solace in that life, sits mangled in the corner. The bow, hushed to silence, is propped against the hearth. My dolly is cradled in her lap as a discarded, yet treasured toy.
I come to her in big, salty tears. I come to her as tears of remembrance. I slide down her cheeks that are chapped, raw and red and fall onto her lap. The tears puddle at her feet and rise to her ankles. When the tears reach her lap, my dolly floats away much like I had done, face down and without a struggle.
I am here to save her now, to release her from her torment. The tears rise until they reach her lips. I kiss her there, gently and lovingly, as she takes her last breath. Then we are joined again, forever, like the salt in the sea.