These are the top 7 story excerpts from the Music Horror challenge.
Story #1 Cherry Blossoms and Yokai by Adele Marie Park
This is the story about a young girl, her mother, and Uncle who are all mourning the death of her grandmother. While cleaning out her house, they find a chest that belonged to her great-grandmother. In the chest is a shamisen (Japanese guitar) that calls yokai (Yōkai are a class of supernatural monsters, spirits and demons in Japanese folklore.)
This passage is from near the end. The girl has unknowingly released yokai into their house by playing the shamisen. They have called in a Japanese priest and she has told her to start playing.
“As I played the first bars a warm feeling grew inside my tummy and even mum shrieking didn’t phase me.
I glanced at her. She was staring at something behind me. I turned my head around as far as I could while still playing. There was someone behind me. Fear woke the bird as I recognised the kimono Great grandmother Shiori wore. I felt a light touch on my shoulder.
“Play.” I heard her voice but inside my head.
I kept going as two mouth came in with her hands outstretched as if she had no control over her movements. She wailed as she was sucked into the shamisen.
The floor under me started to rumble. I felt the movement travel through my body.
Loud bangs came from upstairs followed by screams that made me play a wrong note.
“Strength,” great grandmother, Shiori said.
An almighty racket shook everything that wasn’t nailed down. It sounded as if a giant ran down the stairs.
Onibaba flew into the room. God she was ugly. Her knife dripped red onto the carpet as she glanced around her. Opening her mouth I could see rows of sharp teeth and remembered that she could kill us.”
Story #2: Scordatura by Jess Landry
Which is a certain way of tuning a stringed instrument. The daughter of a famous cellist practices for an upcoming concert under the heavy hand of her famous mother. Unable to play the cello because of an illness, the famous cellist forces her dream on her daughter who practices dutifully despite her mother’s abuse. When the daughter realizes she wields power over others with her musical gifts, revenge is finally hers.
“Odette starts the morning with Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G major.
The cold cello strings fit snuggly into the self-made grooves of her fingers like a second home. Down-bow, up-bow, she lets her elbow guide the stroke, the music spill from her like a river of her blood pouring from an open wound. She wonders how that would feel, the blood gushing from her body, out of her shell and pooling at her feet. Would it seep through the herringbone floor? Would it collect in the unused space between her room and the room below, her mother’s study? Would it pool and pool and press down on the intricate fleur de lis-patterned ceiling until it broke through the plaster and onto her mother, covering her in a sea of red?
She’s playing faster now, an eighth above tempo. Her brain tells her to slow but her hands refuse to listen. The cat across the way lays on his open perch, the man sipping his drink and reading the paper one floor above him. Odette longs to be that cat, to be free and lazy, to watch the world without a purpose.
Three quick taps sound from the room below–a stick to the floorboards–a first warning to keep tempo.”
Story #3 Audio Addict by Daphne Strasert
In a world where music is as illegal as heroin and just as deadly addictive, Cadence and Lorelei share music hits in the privacy of Cadence’s family hunting lodge. After paying for hits for months, Lorelei share a secret with Cadence – she can sing. Cadence and Lorelei spend lovely nights together as they binge on Lorelei’s gift, but when she decides she wants to stop, Cadence can’t control her addiction.
“Cadence wasn’t a square, but she’d attended freshman health class just like everyone else. She’d had the dangers of experimenting with music burned into her brain along with the grainy photos of ear infections. Poetry was okay, as long as no one drove under the influence. Even her parents kept a little Tennyson in the locked cabinet by their bed that they thought Cadence didn’t know about. Rap was a greyer area. Audioheads in Colorado were always going on about helping soldiers with PTSD and legalization, but that was a long way from any sort of federal recognition. Cadence’s parents would flip if they knew she’d listened to a small hit to unwind after last semester’s finals.
Lorelei always brought the hits. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who sold rap, but music was harder to come by. She said her brother got them from a DJ in the Shallows and Cadence was glad for it. She didn’t want to go to the huddled ruin of buildings where the shadows never fully receded and the sounds of sirens were always a few blocks away. It was a place that existed across America, simultaneously unique yet exactly the same in every city. And it was never somewhere good girls wanted to be after dark. Of course, a good girl wouldn’t be plugged into a guitar hit—sharing headphones and everything—in the middle of the afternoon.”
Story #4 Requiem in Frost by Jonathan Fortin
A girl and her mom move into a haunted house once owned by a heavy metal musician. When strange things start happening, the girl investigates to find out of it is the ghost of the deceased head banger or if the murderer has come back to finish them off.
This is from when the girl first sees the ghost
“When I opened my eyes, it was still dark—probably after midnight, as before. But this time, when I took off my headphones, I didn’t hear screaming. I did, however, feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
There was someone in the room with me.
He was tall, but barely visible. I only saw him at all because moonlight reflected off of the shiny red liquid coating his body. He wore spiked pauldrons and gauntlets, and his hair was long and ragged. His face was a ghoulish mess of scars, facial hair, skeletal makeup, and open bleeding wounds.
He was dripping all over the floor. Drippiest of all was the huge ax in his hand. I worried suddenly where all that blood had come from—if this was just how he looked, or if he’d just butchered someone. Mom…was Mom all right?
Only then did it dawn on me that the ghost could harm me. Perhaps it should have been obvious, but I’d never felt threatened until that moment. I felt paralyzed in bed, fearing he would kill me, that he’d killed my mom.
He walked closer to the bed, his huge ax dripping a red river across my bedroom floor. All too quickly he was right beside me, raising that ax high.”
Story #5 Audition by Naching T. Kassa
Jim auditions for a place with the band and will do anything to get the spot, but when they send him to a mysterious address to be tested, he has second thoughts. A lesson with a blues legend is the least of his worries as he finds himself trapped, with only one way out. Will the cost for freedom be too high?
“An hour later, having left the theater, Jim found himself blinded by California sunshine. The dirt road crunched under his tires and trees whooshed by as he sped along. These sounds, along with the hum of the Mustang’s engine, were the soundtrack to his thoughts.
Where had Langham sent him? And to who? He shouldn’t have ended with the blues rift. If he’d gone with a more traditional coda, he might’ve passed the audition. Now, he was out in the sticks on a wild goose chase.
An old fashioned wrought iron gate suddenly rose ahead of him. It stood dark and skeletal against the pink sky. Jim slowed. Brass numbers were fixed to the bars and they matched the address he’d been given. He parked, pulled his phone from his pocket, and dialed.
Langham answered on the second ring.
“There must be some mistake,” Jim said. “Nobody lives here.”
“There are people there,” Langham answered.
“Yeah, they’re six-feet under. It’s a cemetery.””
Story 6: The Agent by Harry Husbands
A mediocre rock band performs, waiting for the appearance of “the Agent” of unknown origin. When he appears, he offers the band a sort of “deal with the devil” proposal they can’t refuse.
“The bed looked welcoming and I walked forward, ready to collapse, when I saw him and back pedalled, holding a hand to my mouth.
“Don’t,” the agent said. His voice belied his appearance, a high-pitched shrill with rising Texan accent. I backed myself into the corner beside the door. I tried to scream but the air had left my lungs, instead I writhed around, gasping and reaching for the handle. “Don’t,” he repeated.
He came into view, blocking out the light. His coat hung about his person like a carcass and the fur seemed to move in waves with an absent breeze. His black Stetson was old and rugged; from my seat, I could see two eyes like a shark’s beneath it, as devoid of colour and life as his attire. His skin was dirty white and leathery in appearance, stretched out over his enormous body. I stared up. Fear gripped me to the spot.
The agent began floating toward me, coming within a foot of my cowering form. A bead of sweat dripped from the end of my nose as my whole body shook. He bent down to my face. A thick, suffocating aroma of coal smoke emanated from his person.’
Story #7 The Lament of the Piano Man by AE Kirk
A homeless man breaks into the local Haunted House to take refuge, but when he hears piano music coming from an upper room, he realizes he might not be alone.
“‘In here.’ The voice came from within a nearby room. With the floorboards threatening to fracture beneath his weight, Bert went across the landing and entered the first room on the left. He gasped in awe. It was as though he had gone back in time. The room was completely untouched from damp and decay, every the old olive coloured wallpaper was still intact. The furniture was free from dust, the carpets were in pristine condition, and a gigantic shiny grand piano sat in the middle of the room, like a crown jewel.
‘Such an amazing room,’ Bert whispered to himself. The unnamed pasty man, who was standing lovingly by the piano, nodded.
‘This is the music room.’ He gestured around him, and Bert stole a glance at the walls.
They were adorned in old framed certificates and achievements of musical accomplishments. From grades in piano to degrees in music, and clippings from news articles about playing at the opera. They all mentioned the same name, Matthew Day. Bert was truly astonished.
‘Everything downstairs is nothing compared to this. It’s all rotting and full of mould.’
The man frowned. ‘I plan to rectify that… when I have enough help from the locals.’
Bert snapped his fingers. ‘The local boys! I heard they come in… Do they help you?’
The man smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. ‘Oh, they help alright. But one at a time and they only come at night. You are here during the day, that’s most peculiar.’”
Listen to the contestants battle for points this season on HorrorAddicts.net