David Reardon’s eyes snapped open and he stared into darkness. Even though it was too dark for him to see anything, he knew that something was not quite right. He felt it.
“Is anybody there?” he asked, his voice barely above a hoarse whisper; there was no answer.
Slowly, he snaked his left hand out from beneath the covers, towards the bedside lamp on the shelf beside him. The lamp spluttered into life, bathing the room in sheer white light, momentarily blinding David as his sleep-laden eyes adjusted.
For a brief span of seconds, he thought he saw someone at the window; a shadow, perhaps, but no—the room was empty; no one was there. David exhaled in relief, mopped at his sweaty brow. Despite the effort of the ceiling fan, which was whizzing around with a soft whirring noise, the room was still oppressively hot. Even with the cool breeze teasing the curtains at the window, the heat was imminent. David found himself staring at the curtains waving in the breeze. Before he even realised he was doing it, he was out of bed, and with the cool breeze tickling his semi-naked body, was standing with the curtains held apart, his eyes scanning the side of the house for the something he felt sure was in his room. But if there was someone out there, and whether or not they were in David’s room, they were now long gone.
He let the curtains fall closed of their own accord, before turning back to his room and to his bed. He slipped once more under the covers, and was about to switch the lamp off when he heard it…
…coming from just by his window.
In an instant, he was up and at the window again, throwing aside the curtain, looking out.
Nothing. There was nothing… but the sound…
It came not from outside the window, but further off into the yard; the sound of someone playing a musical instrument… either a pipe organ or something very much like it.
But at this hour?
David glanced at his clock. The red led display panel told him that it was 2:33 am. Surely no one in the right frame of mind would play an organ—let alone any other sort of instrument—at this time of night?
“Well,” David muttered beneath his breath. “This idiot is.”
Once more, he let the curtains fall back into place, and sidled back to his bed. He paused once more, listening to the musician playing away in the night. What possessed him to play at this hour was beyond David—only a fool or an insomniac would dare do something so… well, ludicrous.
Somehow, David doubted that this person was a fool. A fool couldn’t command this kind of alluring power over a keyboard as this person
was it a man or a woman?
seemed to command. The melody, though it sounded rather simplistic even to David’s untrained ears, leapt out and seemed to caress David’s naked skin. This touch ran all over his body, through his mind… lifting him… holding him. There was nothing else in David’s life for the next few minutes except the powerful (and simple) tune that came from somewhere outside of David’s window. He sat upright in his bed, goosepimples standing out where the magical music hands had touched his skin, feeling the world spin beneath him, feeling every individual beat of his heart, every pulse of his synapses…
…and before he knew it, morning sunlight was piercing the fabric of the curtains, casting strange shadows around the room. David was still sitting upright in his trance, but there was no more music. When he turned to the clock, the led display read 6:29 am.
David shivered. Had he stayed up for that long? He shook his head, ruffled his hair, and put his head onto his pillow. In no time, he was asleep.
He thought nothing of it when he awoke later on that day, however that night, in the still heat of summer, he heard it again.
The sound was low, resonant, and seemed to rise and fall in steady rhythms, like the beating of a heart. The tune being played was heavy with melancholy, and had a slow, almost mechanical feel to it. David listened attentively; once more rapt in the hypnotic lulling of the music he was hearing.
Very soon, he was out of bed and at the window, peering once more through the glass, out into the backyard. There was a need within him to prise the window open, and climb through the gap into the hot night. He overcame this urge through a great effort, becoming conscious of his hand as it reached for the window’s latch and reprimanding it when it did so. He could not, however, escape the hypnotic pull of the organ, whose keen music held him attentive with its forceful hand. So he stood by the window, face pressed against the pane, whilst some unknown musician played a slow, haunting melody…
David awoke with a jolt. The sun bored through the window into his freshly opened eyes, sending searing bolts of pain straight into his head.
He groaned, pushed aside the bed coverings and staggered over to the window, intent on ostracising himself from the offending rays of light. As his hands grabbed the curtain, he became suddenly aware of the lonely building standing in the vacant lot some way from the edge of the backyard. Never before had he given it more than a customary glance; but now, for some strange reason, it seemed to beg for his attention.
He stood at the window, staring at the old building in a new way, unable to discern why. The building was a very simple—albeit decrepit—building, lacking anything to make it stand out in any special way. It was constructed with large red bricks, held together by mortar that was now green with mould, or in places, non‑existent. Running along its side were many windows, as dark as pits of tar, and as lucid, peppered in places by vandals who threw rocks at them. At its front, where it looked onto the main street, there was a sign painted above the door that simply read: “SCHOOL OF ARTS. Est. 1812.” David had ridden past it many times on his bicycle, and had never really given it a sideways glance… so why should he now be staring at it as if it were something unusual?
Presently, he shrugged, closed the curtains and pulled on some clothes. By the time he went downstairs for breakfast, all thought concerning the School of Arts had eluded him…
This time, the tune was not a slow lament; but rather, a loud cacophonous noise that invaded David’s brain, robbing him of the precious sleep he had just been enjoying. How no one else was affected by all of this was beyond his level of understanding, fatigued as he was. He merely accepted that some whacko was playing a pipe organ at the early hours of the morning for some kind of perverted merriment. However much he thought this, some unnatural force didn’t want it dismissed so easily.
Too tired to fight himself, David allowed the raucous music, now being played in a horrific frenzy, to lift him from beneath his covers and drag him towards the window. His hand caught the latch, the window sprung open, and before he realised what he was doing, he was through the window, into the oppressive late night heat.
Once more, the music filled his mind, eradicating all other thoughts, pushing them away with malevolent force, and dragged David as if he was on a leash through the backyard. At the back fence, he noticed for the first time the School of Arts.
It had changed.
No longer was it a drab, ancient, rotting building. Now, it had renewed vigour; the whole building appeared to be alive… but what struck David most was the series of flashing lights emanating from the once dark windows… orange… red… blue… green…
…and coming from within those flashing palls of light was the sound of the organ.
David stopped now, fear gripping his body. At once, rationality leapt forward in his brain, escaping the bonds the music had enslaved it with. It told him not to go there, to run… to go back to the safety of his bedroom…
His feet inched slowly forward, moving at first as if he were wading through thick syrup, before gradually unwinding, becoming smoother.
He now stood at the back door of the School of Arts; here were stained glass windows in a variety of colours, now looking much like a psychedelic light show at a hippy freak out. Instinct told him once more to back away, to run, but the pull of the music controlled his hand, made him reach out, made him touch the door.
It opened slowly, giving rise to the musty odour of neglect. The music seemed to leap around him like phantasms, digging into his exposed skin, caressing his hair. He stepped up into the mouth of the door, into the hall where he was at once assaulted with wild flashes of bright light and loud, seemingly apocalyptic, noise.
He screamed; but the noise was drowned by the droning of the organ, which was soloing at a blistering pace, reaching a vibrant crescendo. With his hands firmly over his ears, he staggered into the adjacent hall, and there, glimpsed for the first time the person responsible for the music.
He sat in front of the pipe organ, his back to David, his hair a flowing white cockatoo nest, coloured by the lights that were coming from the pipes with the sound. His elongated fingers moved haphazardly over the keys, whilst his feet pumped at the myriad pedals, opening valves, sending wild treatises of music into the hall to vibrate on the walls, there to build in intensity and impact amongst the exploding colours. David watched in horrific fascination as the Organ Man suddenly launched into the final orgasmic splutters of sound, before—in a brilliant flash of blinding colour—the climax was reached.
The silence was alien. To David it was a complete void. It was as if nothing else existed, except him and the Organ Man, who now slumped over the pipe organ, his body shaking, rasping breaths tearing from his lungs.
“Excuse me,” David ventured, his voice hollow; nothing compared to the greater voice of the pipe organ.
The Organ Man slowly turned around to face David. His face was extremely pale and bony, with prominent cheekbones and a pointed jaw. His eyes were sunken, and stared at David, appearing to have the clarity of water. His lips were pencil lines drawn tightly across his mouth, under a thin wafer of a nose.
“Who are you?” he said, his voice nasal.
“David, eh?” The Organ Man looked away momentarily, a bony hand playing at the cuff of the untidy coat he was wearing. “Well, David. What brings you to my midnight recital?”
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Yes. Insomnia. Does not go well with this summer heat. I suffer somewhat from insomnia myself… a kind of—how should I put it—spiritual insomnia.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“Nor should you,” the Organ Man replied plaintively. He grinned, the pencil line lips moving slightly, if at all. “There’s many things in this world that are beyond our understanding. It’s just the way life is. One long riddle.” The Organ Man turned back to the keyboard, stared down at it longingly.
“What do you do here?” David asked.
“Me? Nothing. I do nothing. Nothing at all. Except bring life to this decrepit old building that should have died years ago. My life is this building. This building is my life.”
“I don’t get it. You come in here and play this organ in the middle of the night?”
“Because it brings me great joy. Because it brings me peace. Because I have to. Because I am compelled to play… I’m attracted to the organ. It wraps me in its power. It holds me in its hands… I am the Organ Man!”
“But why can’t anyone hear you?”
“You heard me didn’t you?” This was said with a wry smile that on the Organ Man’s face seemed unreal. His pupils were dilating as he spoke, and began to appear glazed.
“I mean… you make a lot of noise…”
“Noise? Is it just noise to you, David?”
“Well; it’s noisy…”
The Organ Man leaned back on the stool he was sitting on, his frail frame twitching slightly. A bony finger caressed the wood grain of the keyboard, running slowly down the polished surface. “Doesn’t it do something to you? Doesn’t it lift you? Inspire you? Make you feel cold, lonely, fearful, hungry, angry—dare I say it! —horny?”
“I—?” David stammered as the Organ Man rose from the stool, still grinning his pencil mark grin.
His eyes were glowing now, wide with wild excitement. “I feel all those emotions coursing through my body… those and more… as I play. My whole body gets involved in the sculpting of the music, not only my hands and feet. All of me. It’s like one big pool of emotion, mixed together in a huge cauldron, boiling, frothing—” The Organ Man threw his hands into the air. “At first, there was nothing. I was nothing. And then, like the woman of an ugly man’s dreams, along came… this machine! Before her, I felt dead, lifeless… Now—? There’s so much power in this devilish thing! It has my soul, boy, and there is naught that can be done about it. Nothing! I am caught, I fear, by the devil inside this blasted contraption. It claimed my soul after I struck the first note…” With that, he reached out with the index finger on his right hand, and struck a note, sending off a short peal of sound, a splash of orange light. “It’s that easy, David,” the Organ Man whispered. “That simple. All it takes is for your finger to press a key… and you’re gone.”
“Oh. Nowhere. You needn’t worry about it, son. In fact, my advice is simple: turn around and leave. Don’t come back. For your sake, don’t come back—ever!”
David was stunned. The Organ Man turned away from him, his attention wandering back to the organ. He sat, and began to absently poke at a few keys with his right hand, creating a melody, before bringing his left hand in to manipulate some chords. The sound coming from the organ was half way between mournful and spirited; it shifted continuously in and out, and while David watched, the Organ Man began to sway with the music that undulated like a valley unfolding into green pastures. David saw on the Organ Man’s face such an intensive look of concentration; it was as if the Organ Man was pushing his soul through the pipes, for with every change of chord, a new groaning twitch would rush across his face. The movement of the Organ Man’s fingers over the keys and the movement of his feet as they stroked the pedals fascinated David. As David looked up, he saw the same lights that had greeted his arrival, only this time, they were in shades of dark blue and green, and moved slowly, as if in sympathy of the music. They billowed across the walls like curtains blown in the wind, merging one on top of the other, slowly, sensually.
Then it suddenly stopped, and the Organ Man was looking at David, his eyes sharp, the pupils shrinking. “Didn’t I just tell you to go, boy?” the Organ Man asked, his voice carrying in the empty hall.
“I want no excuses… just go, damn you! Go, and never come back! Do I make myself understood? Do not come back!”
The last was almost shouted, but even if it wasn’t it was said in such a way that demanded prompt action. David scurried backwards under the steely gaze of the Organ Man, who now folded his arms over his chest, his eyebrows knitted into a frown. David turned and bolted for the back door, wrenched it open and ran out into the warm night, back to the sanctuary of his bedroom.
The sunlight burned his retinas. The light was white, hot. David swiped at his forehead with the back of his hand, feeling the grimy sweat that was there. The crowbar weighed tonnes in the fold of his shirt. It was cold, unlike the day; though not unlike the heavy feeling that dwelt in the pit of David’s stomach, threatening to bring up the meagre breakfast he had forced himself to eat.
With a nervous glance over his shoulder, David produced the crowbar, and regarded the rear door of the School of Arts building as if he was a magpie watching a wriggling worm writhing in the mud. He swallowed nervously hefting the crowbar from one hand to the other.
What the hell am I doing?
He placed the flat wedge into the edge of the door where the old rusty lock was. He was determined at first to tear open the door, but something other than nervousness made him stop. With his hand, he reached out, and pushed at the door. It didn’t budge.
David let out a shaky breath, wiped more sweat from his brow. This is too freaky, man, too freaky. How the hell did I open the door last night?
“Why that’s really simple,” David whispered. “The Organ Man was inside, and he left the door unlocked.” David placed the crowbar at the lock. “It is that simple,” he concluded as the old wood of the door splintered at the lock, and it swung open.
David stood in the doorway, his heart hammering in his chest.
What the hell am I doing?
He was tempted to drop the crowbar and run; indeed his fingers released their grip on the piece of steel, and it clattered onto the ground. David, however, remained where he was.
Musty odours wafted out first; the smell of disuse, decay and cockroach infestation. David’s nose wrinkled at this, and he felt the urge to sneeze. However, he controlled this urge enough to scoop up the discarded crowbar and push his way inside, closing the door behind him.
It was dark inside the School of Arts. Dark and cold, for the windows were too clogged with dust to allow sufficient sunlight to pass through. It was very much like David imagined a tomb would be like; except there was nobody in here. Or was there? David inched slowly across the floor, seeing the footsteps he had made last night. One set of footprints going in… another out…
David swallowed once more; the sweat that had poured from his body when he was outside now froze to his skin. Only one set of footprints, he thought. Mine. Which meant?
“He’s still in here,” David whispered, and as a precaution, gripped the crowbar as if it were a baseball bat.
He followed his footsteps over the creaking floorboards and into the adjacent hall. There, where it had been last night, and indeed—so it seemed to David—for all of eternity, was the pipe organ. David stared at the now lifeless monolith, still feeling a sense of awe as flickers of the night before flashed through his mind; however, these were swiftly dissipated when David noticed what the real organ looked like. The pipes were rusted in places, clogged with dust; if anyone tried to play them in the condition they were now in, they’d fall to pieces. Cobwebs clung to the various pipes, their owners long gone, the webs the colour of the red swirling dust that seeped in through the decrepit old building’s cracks. David approached the platform on which the pipe organ sat and noticed for the first time the holes in the floorboards into which several mice disappeared. With a mind not accepting the truth, David stared longingly at the vacant stool, half expecting the Organ Man to be sitting there, glaring at him with those weird eyes…
But he wasn’t there. All that was there was the stool, with various horsehair tufts sprouting from the tears in the rotted vinyl. The organ itself was in a similar state—the keys were stained a disgusting yellow colour, looking like teeth in the mouth of an old man. David found his lips curling up in disgust as he recalled the fingers of the Organ Man sliding over those exact same keys, the ecstatic look of joy on his pencil-thin lips, in his eyes…
“Doesn’t it do something to you? Doesn’t it lift you? Inspire you? Make you feel cold, lonely, fearful, hungry, angry—dare I say it! —horny?”
David felt his entire body sag with the disappointment he felt. “No,” he whispered, and in the confines of the School of Arts, this whisper was much louder. “I feel… dead, lifeless.”
He lowered his eyes.
“At first, there was nothing. I was nothing. And then, like the woman of an ugly man’s dreams, along came… this machine! Before her, I felt dead, lifeless… Now—? There’s so much power in this devilish thing! It claimed my soul after I struck the first note… It’s that easy, David, all it takes is for your finger to press a key… and you’re gone.”
David swallowed, grimacing again at the yellow keys. What once was beautiful was now haggard, old. David shifted the crowbar from hand to hand, the temptation to bring it down onto the keyboard becoming suddenly overwhelming. He wanted to destroy the accursed thing, wanted to make the Organ Man pay the price for keeping him awake in the middle of the night. Most of all, David wanted to release the primal fear he felt freezing his stomach, to replace that fear with the more primal feeling of explosive rage. But he couldn’t find the energy to even lift the bar over his head once, let alone do it repeatedly. The crowbar felt like a dead weight in his hands, a null, frozen entity… a dead limb. It hit the floor with a dull thud, causing a spatter of red dust to waft into the air, to irritate David’s nose. He sneezed, the sound reverberating around the empty hall, sounding as if a hundred people had sneezed and not just one.
The destructive moment passed as swiftly as it had come, to be replaced with a weakening of his knees. David sagged forward, cradling his face in his hands, feeling the cold flesh of his palms and face. He closed his eyes, heard his heart beating away in his chest.
This is crazy, he thought. What am I doing here at all? Why did I break in? What am I achieving by being here? The thoughts bounded around inside his mind, but as it always seems to be, there were no answers for the questions, and David resigned himself to that fact grimly, and with a shake of his head, rose to his feet.
“It’s this fucking organ,” he groaned, approaching it again, mounting the few steps to be level on its dais. He stared wildly at the sickening yellow keys, the cobweb encrusted pipes, the stool with the horsehair bulging out everywhere. “The Devil in the Machine,” David whispered. “The Devil.” He reached out with the index finger of his right hand, watching it close the gap between himself and the keyboard with a semi-detached fascination, a wry smile on his lips. He was aware of every sordid detail of that finger; the way the last knuckle bent towards the middle finger, the crest of white at the base of the fingernail, the twisted little scar that ran along the top surface. He was watching his finger travel slowly towards the keyboard, but it was not his finger. It was the Organ Man’s finger, or someone else’s finger. It wasn’t David’s finger.
Inch by inch he closed the gap, until the moment where his finger was a mere fingernail’s width above the grimy key, so close that he could actually feel it beneath the pad of his finger. Here he paused, coldness flushing his body once more. His breath was ragged, and he found himself drawing nothing but the red dust into his lungs… the choking red dust that clogged everything without mercy. David’s vision swam before his eyes, his tears causing the organ to bend and move, to form a grotesque leering monster, the keyboard becoming teeth, the pipes hair like the snakes of Medusa… and David froze like a stone.
What are you doing here? David’s mind asked him, or at least he thought it did. He shook his head to clear it of the horrendous vision, and was about to stab the key that his finger was poised above, when the question was repeated with more force… but not in his mind.
“I said, ‘what are you doing here?’”
David screamed, jerking back, slipping off the stool he had no recollection of ever sitting on. He snapped his head around to catch a glimpse at whoever it was that called out to him, but all he could see was the piercing demonic eyes of the Organ Man, holding his long fingers out, fingers that curled like snakes. David screamed again, scurrying along the floor, away from the organ and the Organ Man alike, covering his face with his hands, a stabbing coldness grabbing his balls in an iron fist.
“Who are you?” the old man asked, approaching the platform carefully.
David ceased his whimpering, stared at the old man, his first thoughts becoming floundered as the man came into focus. His hair was the same stringy white that was the Organ Man’s, but it was neatly combed on either side of his head. His lips were full, unlike the pencil line lips the Organ Man possessed. The eyes were similar in colour, but the old man’s were rheumy gelatinous globules that needed the assistance of a thick pair of glasses to discern any of David’s features.
“Why are you here?” the old man demanded, a sense of urgency in his voice.
David said nothing for a few shocked seconds, brushed the hair from his eyes. The old man’s attention was now on the organ, lying decrepit and innocent in its dais, cloaked in the dust of ages. His look of longing seemed alien upon his creased and grey face, his rheumy eyes filling with tears that were more than an allergic reaction to the excess dust lying around. “Is it your organ?” David asked, his voice nothing more than a splutter.
The old man shook his head. “The organ belongs to my brother,” he whispered, his thin frame rocking gently back and forth as if caught on a wind. “Or so he believed. But he was wrong. No one is its master.” He was silent again, but only for a few minuscule seconds, but that silence was so intense that David could hear the blood coursing through his veins. “You still haven’t stated why you’re here.”
“Are you going to call the police?” David asked.
The old man shrugged. “I can’t see what they’re going to do. Nobody owns this place.”
“I thought you said your brother—”
“—owns the organ. He owns the organ, boy. Or he likes to think he does. As for the hall… well, it’s owner died at least fifty years ago. Besides that, the police will be of no help to me. Or you for that matter.”
The old man watched David closely and David withered beneath that gaze. There was something the old man wasn’t telling him, but David was morbidly afraid to ask what it was. He wanted to rush past the old man, to push him away if he went to stop him, to run out into the warm sunshine. Anything would be more welcome than the cold tomb-like interior of the hall with this strange man who was talking in riddles and that organ, standing behind him in dusty, monolithic silence; a horrifying presence in itself, made more horrifying by its silence. David swallowed nervously, shuffled from one foot to the other, unable to move, even though he wanted to. He found his gaze locked onto the old man’s, who returned it levelly, his gelatinous eyes wide, knowing—maybe too knowing.
“You heard the music, didn’t you?” the old man asked suddenly, breaking the silence that had been in place since last he spoke. His voice was loud, bouncing around the hall, echoing, one voice on top of another, and another, and another… “You heard the organ being played, didn’t you?” he asked again, with urgency sustaining his voice. He came a few steps nearer, his gait awkward. David noticed for the first time that the old man’s left leg was prosthetic, giving him the stride of a marionette. “Please tell me you only heard the music… that you never actually played the accursed thing?”
“What music?” David snapped, finding the strength to move, if only to turn back to the organ, anything than to stare at the old man who hobbled along on a plastic leg, who looked like the geriatric version of that stupid pirate in Peter Pan. “What music could possibly come from this thing? Look for yourself, old man. This thing is fucked!”
David heard the old man shuffle forward a few steps. “Then why did you break in?” he countered. “There’s nothing of interest in this place to a person of your age. Maybe if you were younger, then curiosity could be justification… but a younger child wouldn’t have had the strength or ingenuity to break open the door. Therefore, I can only surmise that there was another force enacting on you. Don’t lie to me. You heard the music, didn’t you?”
“What if I did?” David challenged.
The old man only stared. “God rest your soul.”
“What do you mean by that?” David snorted, his first strains of fear melting into boyish bravado.
“What it means literally,” the old man stated, unaffected by David’s sarcasm. “But for your sake as well as mine, I need to know!”
David paused, shuffled forward a few nervous steps, his toe striking the discarded crowbar. He glanced briefly down at it before returning his gaze to the old man. There was an urgency in the old man’s gaze that David found frightening. The old man wasn’t angry so much by David’s trespass, but rather, by David evading his inquiries. But just how genuine were those inquiries? What if David had heard the midnight recital? Was it as important as this old fool was making it out to be?
“You say your brother owns this organ,” David said in a matter-of-fact way. He turned and embraced the organ with a sweeping gesture. “An interesting piece. And yet, I wonder… does it still work?” David grinned at the old man, and made to touch one of the dirty yellow keys.
At once, the old man staggered forward, his prosthetic leg throwing his walking motion awry. A garbled cry escaped from his mouth, the words unintelligible, choked. “No!” he stammered after trying a series of blurted monosyllables. “No! Don’t touch it!”
But David wasn’t going to touch it. He had no particular need to do so. The thought of his fingers caressing those ugly, stained keys caused his breakfast to make itself known in the churning cavity of his stomach. The keyboard smiled at him, silent, beckoning him, the dirty yellow keys set apart by the shorter, black keys… looking like spots of decay in the mouth of a long dead dinosaur.
The old man was suddenly beside him, swatting the air frantically with his hands. He reeked of sweat and some cheap cologne and fear. His fear was paramount, rancid. It combined the bitter tang of piss with the subtle aroma of cinnamon and the dusty, cloying stench of mothballs. Death, David’s mind whispered. This old geezer smells like death. And it was true; he smelled exactly how old deserted houses smell, how stained wallpaper and old linoleum floors smell when dry rot sets in. He smelled of an old couch that was the home of mice. It was repulsive, more so than the insect-like movements the old man was fluttering about, or the nervous intonations
don’t touch it!
that fluttered from his trembling lips. David backed away from the old man, backed a far way away from him. In fact, once David was well clear, he spun on his heels, and just as he had fled the Organ Man last night, he fled from this crazy, smelly old man.
He passed the rest of the day in his bedroom with the window tightly shut and the curtains drawn, the ceiling fan chugging effortlessly away in the background. The darkness was a comfort, anything to be out of the sun and the heat. His mother had knocked on the door about an hour ago, to see if he was in. He remained as still as a statue, not even daring to draw a breath, the thought of leaping under his bed coming to mind should she choose to investigate. But she didn’t press the matter, and when she was gone, David locked the door.
He lay on his bed, hearing only the monotonous beating of the ceiling fan, seeing only grey shadows running over the walls of his room. He was tired, but couldn’t sleep. Each time he closed his eyes, an image formed in his mind. The Organ Man, the School of Arts, the old man; they all leapt and coaxed, each with their own sense of omnipotence, forming one collected collage of madness. It was all inconceivable, so… unreal. Where had the organ come from? And why, all of a sudden, could David hear it? And why only him? Surely, the wretched thing was loud enough to wake the entire neighbourhood? So many questions, but no answers, at least nothing tangible. There was only the semi-deranged babblings of that old coot, and that did nothing to allay the confusion David felt, the sense of dread.
In one moment, the organ was alive with promise and vitality; the next, it was a worn, decrepit old machine looking for a place to die. The building also underwent the same change, changing from a decaying, rotting building into a living, breathing concert hall, and then back again. But what of the Organ Man? Who was he… and where did he go? What was the meaning behind his midnight recital? And just who was the old man? Were they really brothers… or the same person?
David turned over, away from the window where he had followed the call of the organ, whose lilting tunes exacted the same attractive powers as the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Was that the purpose of the midnight recital? To attract somebody by some magical force… in this case David? He turned again, lay on his stomach. There must be more behind it, he thought solemnly, listening to the fan beat the air above him. Surely, others must hear the raucous…
You heard me didn’t you?
The Organ Man had said that, with a sly twist of his lips, as if David was wearing a dunce cap and had stated the obvious for the amusement of the class. Why had nobody else heard the Organ Man? Because David had heard the Organ Man! Was it really that simple?
He sat up slowly, feeling a momentary whirl of vertigo as he did so. The mud was clearing, but the pond was far from lucid. If the Organ Man was attracting David, then the next question was why? If the Organ Man was playing the Pied Piper, did that mean that David was a rat?
No, he decided. There is a darker purpose here. But what? What could the Organ Man want of a young boy in the middle of the night?
David shrugged. That answer was anybody’s guess. For all David knew, the Organ Man could be some dirty pervert with a taste for young flesh… and that old coot could be an assistant—a shopping guide if you will. It sounded far-fetched, but deviant behaviour took all sorts of arcane twists did it not? The Organ Man could at this very moment be deciding how best to serve David on a platter; he could be literally creaming his pants in sadistic anticipation. This last thought sent a simultaneous shiver of fear and mirth up and down David’s spine, and despite the fact that it was mid‑summer, a cold hand teased the flesh below his stomach.
What if the Organ Man was a murderer?
The thought leapt into David’s mind so suddenly and so totally, knocking aside the mild perversions as if they were nothing more than annoying bugs. What if the Organ Man attracted people to his midnight recitals in that decrepit old building, and then killed them? What if his kicks went further than just kinky deviance with little boys… what if they went all the way to, say… homicide?
David froze where he sat, felt his heart skipping away frantically; after all, he had actually seen the Organ Man, had talked to him.
What if David was the next victim?
He swallowed, tasted fear, sour, choking.
“Oh, my God!” he whispered, feeling a creeping sensation ripple through his guts and up and down his throat.
Panic brought him to his feet, but only as far as the door. What was he going to say? And to whom was he going to speak? His parents wouldn’t believe him, nor would the police. Who in their right mind would believe a story about an old organ in an old hall being played by a nocturnal madman? But if he could convince them to stay up… and listen. Could he? Would his parents listen?
He sauntered over to his bed.
You’ve got an over active imagination, his mother would say.
His father would just tan his hide. What stupid prank are you playing this time? He could forget trying to explain the crowbar and actually breaking into the hall and finding the organ smouldering in a pile of dust. This same reason also excluded him telling the police. What would they think if they saw the busted lock, or if they found the crowbar lying abandoned on the floor in the hall?
You were trying to rip something off, weren’t you, kid? Or you were caught red-handed trying to break up the place, maybe as part of a dare from your little mates. Yeah, that was it, wasn’t it, kid? The owner of the place caught you and you shat yourself and ran away and now you’re inventing all these kid stories to cover your own sorry little arse.
Flustered, he flopped back onto the bed. Was there nothing he could do?
He cursed, rolled over yet again, became aware once more of the sticky summer heat, encroaching despite the effort of the ceiling fan. He glared up at the stupid thing, disliking the thump‑thump‑thumping! of the rotors. He wanted silence, cold, dependable silence, not the monotonous sound of beaten air, or the whining drone of an old organ. He wanted to be immersed in absolute silence—a void. Even when he buried his head beneath his pillow, he could still hear the god‑awful fan blathering away like an idiot… and it angered him. He rose, made for the switch on the wall, and turned it off. The fan slowed, slowed… stopped—its noise ceased. It was now silent and hot.
He sagged against the wall, stared at the window, the same window through which he had leapt through in pursuit of the sound of the organ. Sunlight filtered through the curtains, painting yellow-orange lines on the walls. These he stared at for a long time, and as he stared, his eyelids became heavier… heavier… heavier still…