Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Violinist (and the Luthier): Part II

"Is that your house?" asked Oscar.

They had been running most of the night. At some point they had left the city, and in fact had left the natural world behind. Oscar figured they were in some sort of pocket or crevice of the universe that God had forgotten to fill with creation. All around them was a dull gray. There were no trees, no hills, no sky. They could barely tell that they were walking on ground. Every once in a while they passed a random object that probably used to be important to someone but was now lost and forgotten. There were chairs and tables, books, trees, cars and even a stray dog. It was hard to tell as they were moving, but Abby thought that some of the objects were blurry around the edges, as if the gray monotony was seeping into them slowly. She looked closely at the house now, but the edges were still sharp.

"Well? Is it your house?" Oscar repeated.

"Yes. We should be very cautious as we go inside. He could be waiting for us." Abby gathered up her courage and started to walk toward the house, but Oscar grabbed her hand.

"Wait. You're gonna have to explain a bit more of what we're up against, this thief of yours." Oscar didn't like being unprepared.

Abby hesitated. "He had dark tattoos over his whole body."

"Well that's easy enough, I suppose. Anything else I should know?"

She looked down and shook her head.

He studied her for a moment before shrugging. He turned toward the house again. "Okay then, let's go." He started forward, but Abby put a hand on his shoulder.

"Try not to touch anything inside. You never know what an object does. And keep your violin ready." Oscar nodded, and they walked to the front door and stepped in.

Once their eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, they found the house in shambles. Tables and shelves were lying upside down, smashed to bits. A piano lay in ruins on the floor. Drawers were ripped out and their contents scattered.

Abby stared at it as if she saw nothing, and said, "I have some things to get from my room. Look around and see if you can find any hints or clues."

Oscar looked at her carefully, but she was unreadable. He nodded and moved left, toward the kitchen. Abby went right, down a hallway. Oscar walked into the kitchen, avoiding the silverware scattered on the floor. He looked around aimlessly, wondering what a hint or a clue might look like, and if he would recognize one if he saw it. Suddenly there was a noise across the room from him. He walked cautiously toward the sound, wondering what sort of violin music could fight off a thief with dark tattoos. At the other end of the room was an archway into the dining room. He stepped through it.

Suddenly a dark shape sprang up onto the dining room table. It shrieked, leaped onto Oscar and propelled him back into the kitchen. The violin flew out of his hand. The figure of a man pinned him to the ground and began choking him. Red eyes stared at him, and Oscar noticed the tattoos that ran from his face all the way down his body. Oscar shoved his arms in between the man's and pushed them off his throat. Grasping the man's arm, he quickly turned onto his stomach and slipped out from under him. He pulled on the man's arm, who fell over onto his back. Oscar jumped on him and aimed a punch at his face. The man blocked with his arm and then Oscar was thrust backwards by a foot on his chest. He was forced onto his back, and in an instant the man was on top of him. Desperate, he reached his hand on the floor behind him, felt a sharp knife, and fumbled for the handle.

Just then Abby raced into the kitchen, saw the man wrestling with Oscar, and Oscar reaching for the knife.

"Wait, Oscar, don't!" she shouted in panic.

But Oscar finally gripped the handle and slashed madly across the man's face. As if it were cutting through pudding, a gash as deep as the length of the blade appeared, and blood splattered on Oscar. The body went limp and fell on top of Oscar. Abby screamed. Oscar shoved the body off of him and jumped up, his heart racing. He looked at Abby, who rushed up to the body and cradled it in her arms, weeping madly over it.

"That was my father!" she screamed at Oscar.

Oscar went numb. "He was trying to kill me! I—I'm sorry!"

"No!" Abby yelled. "Go away!" She stopped as a sob got stuck in her throat. Then she continued in a whisper. "Just go away for a minute."

Oscar felt as if he couldn't move, but he forced his legs to carry him away from her. He saw the violin lying with the bow among some broken plates. He picked them up unconsciously as he walked into the hall. There was a bench that seemed untouched by the wreckage, and he sat down on it. Without knowing why, he lifted the violin to his chin.

At first he played softly, unsure of himself. But soon the walls echoed the violin's tune. He heard Abby sob, and he closed his eyes, his own tears welling up as the song grew, sadness spilling out of the violin like water from a spring, filling the whole house. Soon the mournful song was too much for Oscar, and he felt he couldn't go on. He paused, and the song hung in the air as if waiting for someone to conclude it.

Oscar put the bow to the strings again and managed a few squeaky notes, faltered, then followed with stronger strokes. This time the melody was different, but somehow the two went together. If the first told of the grief of passing, the second spoke of a deep love. Suddenly Oscar understood that the second song was meaningless without the first. The melody went on, and Oscar interlaced it with the first so that the sadness that had hung in the air was joined with something that made Oscar feel he could bear it.

Abby walked into the hall. Oscar noticed she was wearing a small backpack. He stopped playing and looked at her, unsure of what to do.

She looked down at his feet and said, "Thank you, Oscar. That was—really beautiful."

Then she looked up into his eyes. She held out a crumpled piece of paper and said, "He left this on my bed."

Oscar took it and saw, written in large deliberate letters:

I've left one for you
I drew on him just like
you showed me
Come get the other one
or whatever's left of her

"He left a finger on top of the note. I think it's my mom's."

Oscar looked up alarmed. "So your father wasn't the one who did all this? Then who—"

Abby held up her hand to stop him. "Look, I'm not ready to talk about it yet. All you need to know is that some crazy person kidnapped my mom, and is probably torturing her right now."

"And so we're going to go find him, which according to this note, is exactly what he wants us to do." Oscar smiled grimly.

Abby nodded. "He wants the violin. And he probably wants me so that he can use me to make him whatever he wants."

"Perfect." Oscar put the violin up to the chin. "Where are we going?"

Abby smiled weakly at him. "Actually," she said, "We're not going to travel that way this time. I think I know where he went. Come on."

She took his hand and ran with him down a set of stairs to a basement. It was pitch black, and Abby pulled out a flashlight from her bag. There was a trapdoor in the middle of the room, and she went to it and pulled on its handle, but it remained shut.

Oscar played a few notes on his violin, and the latch turned from the other side of the door. Abby easily opened it. White light streamed into the room. A roaring, like an angry ocean, filled the room

"Once you're in an area like this," Abby shouted above the noise as she stuffed her flashlight back in the bag, "there's no easy way out. But my dad built this door so that no matter what, it would always lead to the same place."

Abby sat down and dangled her legs through the trapdoor. Oscar followed suit. The roar became deafening.

Abby leaned close to Oscar and yelled, "We should probably hold hands so that we land at the same time. Sometimes this thing spits you out right, but sometimes it glitches and it might be a half hour before you get out."

Oscar quickly gave her his hand. "Anything else I should know?" he shouted. "Are we going to land in the middle of wild, hungry beasts? Should I hold on to my lower half so that it doesn't get separated from me either?"

Abby missed the sarcasm and yelled back, "No, just watch out for the crazy man with tattoos on the other end!"

With that she jumped in, pulling Oscar in behind her. The trapdoor shut quickly behind them, and the room suddenly filled with silence and darkness.

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