There was only one house at the end of that long, long road that didn’t connect to anything else. As I approached the home on foot, I couldn’t shake the grim nature of my current predicament. It’s not easy to pave your own road, especially one as long and flat as this, so the only explanation is that the state was responsible for its creation. They must have come out here by request of the man I was supposed to see at noon for an appointment.
It takes some serious pull, some real respect to get the state to come out here. Twenty miles may not seem like a lot when you’re driving a race car down the super highway, but when the only known route happens to coincide with a plot of land that’s spent the last several decades plagued by odd occurrences, frequent disappearances and universal accounts of supernatural malevolence, it takes some serious pull to get the state to send the necessary equipment, supplies and collection of both skilled and unskilled laborers out to build a road for one man to walk back and forth on.
There’s an excitement to meeting men who are so powerful. Their actions will always be infinitely unpredictable and they will either confidently share the revealing information about how they accumulated such wealth or they’ll let the strength of their glare say everything that falls between their words.
Visually, the home is flawless. Two stories, clean windows, shutters that are the latest trend over in Europe but still haven’t made their way over to the states, and a front door that popped in such perfect contrast to the off-red bricks that surrounded what was clearly the entry point to the home of a man who had apparently been quite successful in commerce throughout his life.
The road leads all the way up to the front door, which stands on the ground level. The path narrows from its original width in a gradual fashion. If someone were to drive upon this road with the intentions of visiting the same man that I was visiting on foot, eventually they would feel the bounce of their tires upon the stone-filled hills of the burnt Georgia grass, which painted the landscape grey. If it weren’t for the man who I am going to see supplying the necessary funds to build such a structure, these pale yellow hills and cloud-filled skies would appear so undeniably bleak that even Death would be looking over his shoulder in the moonlight.
At the front door, I stood with the shoulders of a man who could not be easily moved by an aggressor of the mind. A tingle of fear giggled down my spine as I concentrated my efforts on achieving a well-practiced look of determination that is so palpable that weaker men often fear it to the extent of disappearing completely when they see its lines being drawn on my face. And although it may seem like a flaw in my character, I am an honest man in the eyes of the men I have come to respect in this world. However, I am calculated, vague and active-minded when facing the ones who could potentially be taking part in a scheme to take what I have, or, even worse, gauging how easily they’d be able to manipulate me into taking part in a scheme even larger in scope and focus, one in which they plan to use me as a multi-faceted pawn most likely.
I heard a window open behind the house. Clear as day. There’s no breeze out in this stale air. I walked to the back of the house, slowly turning each corner as the edges of my eye-line were the only places where evil could hide out here in this sun-smoked field. No back door, though. I slowly inched towards a window, carrying with me the sneaking suspicion that one may not be locked from the inside. Lo and behold, the first window I tried opened right up, and I peered inside the home at the end of the road that led to nothing.
The room was empty. Not a single thing inside, not even a speck of dust. The walls were painted a calm baby blue, the type of feminine blue that a young boy would want his room to be surrounded by in hopes that clear calm skies would be all around him.
Although I was clearly in a state of consciousness during this time, a variation of that same state came about when it occurred to me that if I were to be caught at that very moment, I would be unable to maintain my look of determination, as I would be forced to immediately concede the first battle. I was quick, though, and in a move of athletic precision, I contorted my body to climb through the window in what was dangerously close to absolute silence.
I stood still and simply listened, waiting for some type of clue. It began with the recognition that something was vibrating somewhere in the home. Then, the faintest, most indistinguishable noise arose, so softly that anyone would question whether it was a sound from inside the home or a sound from inside their head. Still unable to determine individual characteristics of the sound, I picked up on its rhythm, which moved like the ticking of a clock if there were four second between each tick and tock. It grew louder within a handful of measures. It was a piano key, the same one each time, growing louder and louder until it grew distorted from the pound of a thin finger attached to some unknown host who had been slowly filling with rage. It must have been him. Who but a powerful man would have such a well-controlled aggression in their progressive rising of the note’s volume?
And it was at the exact moment in which I heard an argument begin to take place. I couldn’t make out the nature of the conversation between what I assumed to be the man who I came to see and his wife, whose voice quickly rose to a shriek as footsteps converged five or six feet directly above my head. Upon the converging of the footsteps came a slapping noise, which was followed by a the sound of what must have been a fist slamming down on the piano keys. It slammed down once, then another time three seconds later, and even louder two seconds after that. By the next maddening connection between the powerful man’s fist and the keys, a variation appeared in the sound that seemed to relay a malfunction in the instrument.
Some deep-seeded heroic quality overtook my nature and I sprinted towards the staircase with the intention of stopping the man from putting his hands on the still shrieking woman, as the mere tone of her voice was enough to determine that her husband was at fault in this hysterical climax. Just as I reached the top of the staircase and headed left, the man emerged from a room on the right, moving with purpose down the stairs, still entirely naive to my presence in his home.
After a minute of listening to his wife breathing heavily from across the hall, I heard him returning up the steps, moving slowly, sounding as though he was carrying extra weight. At the top of the stairs, he returned to the room with the broken piano. Upon entering and seemingly performing some sort of a motionless, silent pause, the sound of a limp body being dropped to the ground rung out as clearly as the church bells used to.
His wife’s breathing grew louder, now carrying with it a defiant groan of ferocity. A couple footsteps were then followed by a shriek that began closer to the door and quickly approached the outside of the house. The shattering of glass then emerged from the room and as I raced into the doorway in a last ditch effort to save her, I could only make out the sound of her body thumping upon the stone-filled, stained yellow grass that surrounded the home.
I stood in the doorway, staring with captivated eyes at the man who stood before a young boy whose lifeless body looked uncomfortable on the floor. I watched the man take a breath, listen to the silence and then take a seat at the piano. Once again, he lapsed into the tapping of a single key, this time using a note on the other side of the piano. He had an impeccable gift for timing and for tone, as he had perfected the ability to raise the volume of the note in identical intervals.
I saw the rage curling up inside him, all alone. He took a deep breath and the muscles in his back seemed to come down to their natural positions of rest. I envied such comfort, so I sat alongside him on the bench and played the note farthest to the left that hadn’t been previously broken by his fist. I came in one beat before he played his. The sounds fused to create the kind of comfort that could lure in the sirens.
It’s always this note that brings me back together again. I stood up and thought to grab the broom to clean up the shards of glass. There were none. I walked over to the window, which was as perfectly clean as it’d ever been, and outside there was no trace of a body that slammed against the ground. I got confused again.
I decided to get some air and headed out my front door. In front of me was a road of infinite possibilities. I was free to choose the direction in which I could travel, but only one path was available, so I began to follow it away from the house. The road would not have been built if it led to nothing.
I walked down the widening path with a vague feeling that I had taken this trip before, an understanding that I’d be taking it again, and I pushed away the hopelessly foolish idea that this will never stop repeating. I had to get to where I was going before the sun went down; around here, even death has to keep looking over his shoulder in the moonlight.