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Moonlight Requiem: Part One

A young woman becomes addicted to enchanted faerie music

 Part One

Wynn woke up to the sound of Clair De Lune resonating all throughout the big, empty house. It wound its lonely way up the stairs, through every hallway, until it came to rest gently in her ears, in her mind. Each note rang clear and clean like the flow of a river at night.

She threw off the covers and sat up. Streams of moonlight poured through the window as if summoned as a testament to the song. She thought of the enormous grand piano in the gallery, how it had been covered in a dust sheet for years. She probably should have reached for the phone and called the police, should have grabbed the poker beside the fireplace and hidden in the closet, but she had to know who was playing that impossibly beautiful music. Hearing it was like consuming alcohol, causing her head to spin and her breath to quicken.

Wynn slid off the bed and moved toward the bedroom door. It swung open without a sound, as though it were afraid to interrupt the cascade of notes with a noise so mundane as a rusty hinge. She padded down the hallway in bare feet, taking no notice of the fine paintings and antique furniture which had held her in such a state of awe only hours before. She stepped over a mound of crumpled dust sheets and turned the corner into the gallery.

The moon wept through the windows. That was the only way to describe it. Wynn was sure that it was because of the music. Those passionately tragic notes would break anyone's heart. The piano was weeping, too. The notes she was listening to now, that was what tears sounded like.

She sought out the stately figure of the piano tucked away near the bay windows and for the longest time was unable to draw breath.

The man seated at the piano could have been beautiful or ugly, in the prime of youth or a hundred years old, an angel or a demon. Wynn would not have cared. It was the way his hands moved over the keys that caused her heart to stutter, to make her feel like she had stopped existing because the feeling of the music was simply too much to bear. He was trying to comfort the instrument as if it were a lost child returned after many years of scars and starless nights. He was weeping with the piano and the moon.

Wynn took another step into the room without realizing it. She stepped softly, ever so softly, but the floor boards still betrayed her.

The music stopped with the horrible jarring clang of a misplaced hand. The man stood abruptly from the bench, knocking it over. He stared at Wynn with eyes the color of the moon.

Wynn's throat hurt. She wanted to tell him how sorry she was, how she would leave right away so he could go on churning out those blissful notes, and never stop.

“You aren't supposed to be here,” said the man. His voice was so soft, and he was so far away, she should not have been able to hear him. “No one is supposed to be here.”

Wynn could not speak. She trembled all over. She wanted the music back. Why wouldn't he sit down again and play the music?

“You are going to die,” the man told her.

“Will you play again, before I die?” Wynn whispered.

She saw the man clench his jaw, and felt her stomach twist itself into a knot.

For one sliver of a moment, he was there, by the piano, basking in the tears that reigned down from the moon.

And then he was gone.

*

When Wynn woke up the next morning and blinked against the light drifting down from her bedroom window, she frowned and wondered why the moonbeams were golden instead of silver. That wasn't right, she thought. She heard the twittering of birdsong and thought that that wasn't right either.

Wynn sat up and looked around. She did not recognize the place at first. The enormous four poster bed, the furniture cloaked in white sheets, the deep, musty scent of perfume and old paper. And then the memory of her aunt's death came back to her. The funeral. The inheritance. Everything.

Almost everything. There was something nagging at the back of her mind that refused to be recollected. Her brow wrinkled as a heavy pain blossomed inside her chest. Her ears rang with an awful emptiness.

Something is wrong. Something is not here which needs to be.

Her eyes fell to the comforter, which had fallen halfway off the bed in the night, nearly burying the suitcase which lay open on the floor. Wynn gathered the thick blanket into her arms and squeezed it tight, like she was six again, hugging her favorite toy for comfort. It did little to console her.

She wandered down to the kitchen, still wearing her silky nightdress. Unlike every other morning of her entire life, she did not feel right when she stood before the coffee pot.

I don't need coffee, she thought to her own horror. I don't know what I need, but it isn't coffee.

Wynn found her feet moving by themselves, and before she could stop them, she was standing in the gallery, staring at the mountainous form of the grand piano under the dust sheet. It would have looked ghostly, if not for the cheery sunbeams shining in and illuminating the whole room.

She suddenly couldn't bear to see it covered up like that, like a hooded prisoner headed for the gallows. She stormed up and tore the sheet off. Clouds of dust erupted into the air; each particle picked out in impossible detail in the morning light.

Wynn stared at the piano. She had always loved the way pianos looked. The graceful curve of the frame, the careful symmetry of the ivory and onyx keys, the way the polished wood gleamed in the light like liquid. She had expected to find solace with the instrument, but instead, her inexplicable sorrow was deepened by the sight of it. There was something missing here, too. Something priceless and beautiful. Something that could not be replaced.

*

“Did you hear me, Wynn?”

Wynn's lulling head snapped up. “Huh?” Her sleeve caught on the foam cup of untouched coffee. It splattered all over her desk.

Girdie lifted a sleek eyebrow. “Late night, sweetie?” she guessed.

“Oh...yeah, I guess it was,” Wynn answered, snatching several tissues out of the box and mopping up the spreading puddle. “Did you need something?”

“Orville wants the sample season for the non-fiction selections.” Girdie squinted at her in concern. “You don't look so good. It's allergy season, isn't it? Do you want me to get you some antihistamine or something?”

“No,” Wynn said with a feeble shake of her head. She had been feeling off for days. “No, it's fine. I'm fine. Just tired.” She tried smiling. “The non-fiction selections? I think I have that right here,” she said and pulled a coffee-soaked folder from a stack on her desk.

Girdie sighed, not unkindly. “You hold on to that copy. I'll get it from Lane instead. Let me know if you change your mind about that antihistamine, okay?”

Wynn did not attempt a reply as Girdie walked off down the row of cubicles. She drew a deep breath and let it out slowly, swiveling around to gaze at the afternoon sun flooding the city with its light. The color of the sunlight still looked wrong to her.

Loud, beat-heavy music drifted up from the street below. Wynn cringed as the sounds grated against her ears. Lately, she could not listen to anything except the Chopin album on her phone without wanting to stop up her ears. She dug hastily in her purse for her earphones, plugged them in and hit the play button. The volume was almost maxed out. She hurried to lower it, sighing in relief as the gentle notes wafted into her ears. Headphones were technically against company policy, but she was on good terms with her boss, Orville, and he would understand if her concentration lately was being a little...demanding.

“See, there she is. Right as rain, none too worse for wear. Are you happy now, Tarath?”

Wynn froze. Despite the noise-canceling earphones blocking out all sound outside her cubicle, she heard the voice as though it were flowing through the wires and into her ears.

“Be quiet, Max,” said another voice. “She can hear us now.”

The first voice snorted. “Like any of them can hear anything these days, what with those noise machines stuck in their ears. Can we go now?”

Wynn's first impulse was to glance around to see who on earth could be speaking. Something in her gut told her not to. She picked up a pen and began copying a random name and phone number off her computer screen and onto a sticky note, and listened.

“You can go if you want. I didn't ask you to come,” the second voice answered. It was smooth and calm, not like the other, which reminded Wynn of an impatient teenager.

“I don't see what you're so concerned about, Tare.”

“She's addicted, Max. Can't you see it?”

Wynn's pen faltered over the bright yellow paper. She laid the pen down, conscious of how noticeably her fingers shook and began scrolling through an email that happened to be open.

“It's your own bloody fault,” Max said. “Go play the pretty little piano and charm every mortal in the neighborhood. Brilliant idea, that.”

“I didn't know she was in the house,” Tarath retorted. “I never would have played if I had known.”

Wynn froze. She stared at a single pixel on the computer screen and only had a fleeting moment to hope that she didn't look on the verge of hysteria.

She remembered it all in a single instant. The piano, the moonbeams, the tears. The music. The man.

Tarath.

He was the one she had seen that night, the night she had been made to forget. He was the one who could draw those unimaginable sounds out of the piano.

“You can't do anything for her,” Max said. “Are you just going to stand around here until she keels over?”

A long silence drifted by, disturbed only by the soothing piano solo of Nocturne No. 1 in B Flat Minor still playing from her phone.

“You're right,” Tarath finally admitted.

The air changed, as though the life were being sucked from it. It was excruciatingly similar to the feeling Wynn had experienced when the enchanting music had clanged to a stop.

Unable keep herself still any longer, Wynn ripped the headphones out of her ears and leapt up from her chair, sending it spinning. She looked around wildly. All she saw was a few of her co-workers staring at her as thought she were a savage animal.

“Wynn?” said Bart from a neighboring cubicle. “Is everything alright?”

No. Everything is not alright.

“Of course,” Wynn blurted. “I just remembered...I left the oven on at home. Gotta go.” She snatched her purse and phone and bolted from the cubicle, headphones flying like tiny banners behind her.

Orville popped his balding head out of his office as she passed by. “Hey, Wynn, I was wondering if-”

“Sorry boss, it's an emergency,” she said breathlessly, and barreled past.

She didn't pause to look back until she was three blocks down the street. For some reason, she had expected someone to be following her. It made sense for her co-workers. They were probably concerned about the state of her mental health after the way she had behaved.

And yet, it was not her co-workers Wynn had been thinking of.

Her mind went back to those voices, the voices that belonged to people who weren't there.

“I really must be going crazy,” Wynn said in a hoarse voice. Her confident stride faltered as she thought about what she was doing. The reasonable side of her brain told her that she was being ridiculous, told her to turn around and march back to work.

But the other side, the side that would not allow her to forget that night with the strange moonlit man at the piano, told her that this was not an option.

She's addicted. Can't you see it?

The voice, Tarath's voice, had spoken the truth. She was addicted. And then she recalled the words he had spoken to her that night.

You are going to die.

It was ridiculous, but Wynn believed him. There was no other explanation for the ache in her chest that grew by the day, the longing she could feel throbbing in time to her accelerated heartbeat.

“So this is what it feels like to die,” she murmured to herself. If she was honest with herself, it wasn't nearly as bad as she had been expecting.

Her phone rang, snapping her out of her oddly philosophical train of thought. She pulled it from her purse, headphones still trailing after it. The number was Girdie's. Wynn pressed her lips together, then slid the phone back into her purse and let it ring.

"Sorry, Girdie,” she said. “I have to settle this first.”

She set out across the sidewalk again, not really sure where she was going or how she would get there. All Wynn knew was that she needed to hear that music again, and Tarath, whoever he was, would be the one to play it for her.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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