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Calm and Calamity

A WIP horror novel inspired by 2020 Whumptober tumblr prompts and contains some Lovecraft elements.

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Chapter Three

Despite the strangeness of the six people clad in black suits, Israel admired Mity as she performed. Her long black hair cascaded down her back in soft waves, and her light make-up complemented her oriental features. While she never looked comfortable in front of a crowd, playing her violin always softened her face into a peaceful expression, like there was nothing else she would rather do.

Mity never started her performances with the same piece. She knew an absurd number of classical pieces and modern songs, and she performed them all without a musical sheet. Israel did not know how it was possible for someone to memorize so much music, but she seemed to know everything. He recognized “Der Erlkoenig,” one she played often, and there were songs he had heard on the radio throughout the week.

Mity’s performances always sent goosepimples up his flesh. She played only a single instrument, but her music brought out waves of emotion in her audience. Images flitted through their minds like a film.

After a few songs, Mity paused, and for the first time of the night she looked at the crowd as they clapped for her. Her cheeks reddened, and she snapped her eyes back to her bow to check it.

Mr. Bonner stepped onto the stage again.

“Does anyone have song requests?” he asked.

The locals were always the first to hold up their hands. Guests and hotel staff alike made requests for the next couple of hours. Out of all the performers, none asked anyone else to perform for as long as they did Mity. It meant more work for the staff, but the extra tips that she earned more than made up for the overtime.

At ten o’clock, Mr. Bonner announced they would have time for one more request. Several hands shot up, but for the first time during the night, the six strangers raised their hands—in unison, Israel noted. They had the same polite smiles on their faces that they had been wearing all night, even while they had watched Mity perform. The older man raised his eyebrows, and he motioned his hand toward them.

“What’s your request, ladies and gentlemen?” he asked.

“We request ‘Calm and Calamity,’” all six people said at the same time.

It sent a shiver up Israel’s spine, but Mity’s reaction was far more visceral. Her eyes widened as she snapped them to the six strangers, and her mouth dropped. People murmured as they wondered what was going on. No one had heard of that song before, and Israel tried to think if anyone had ever mentioned it before.

“Are you familiar with this song?” Mr. Bonner asked, holding himself away from the microphone, and his brow wrinkled with concern for the young violinist.

Mity snapped her mouth shut, and her face was oddly blank as she turned back to him. She nodded, and she rubbed an amber stone—Israel had yet to learn the purpose behind this—onto her bow, hands shaking with the movements. Once she finished, she tucked her violin under her chin, and she placed her bow onto the strings.

The piece began at a slow tempo. A cold melancholy flowed into Israel’s head, and it spread into his chest, swirling around his heart until it clenched. This song was not one he recognized her playing before that night, and as he stared at her, he saw tears flowing down her cheeks. It startled him when he felt some of his own rolling down his face.

The tempo quickened, and the hairs on his body stood on end as the cold grew more intense, seizing his heart even as it beat faster. Something rattled. Someone sniffled, and another whimpered.

Mity’s knuckles were white as she gripped the bow tighter.

The melody changed to something new, something dark and full of longing. A painful heat pushed the coldness aside, and Israel’s fists tightened at his sides. Strange images flitted through his mind. None of them were familiar to him. They were of a girl sitting alone in a dark room, and she wept.

Mity’s face twisted with pain as she played. Her knuckles were white as she gripped the bow and sawed it over her instrument, and he had never seen her bow look so frayed. For as long as he had been watching her play, she had always played with a light hand.

There was more clattering, like metal trembling over the wooden tables. Someone broke into sobs. Israel did not flinch, but he lacked the strength to turn and see what had broken or why. His eyes remained glued onto the violinist on the stage.

Something shattered.

Mity’s violin made a horrible screech in the middle of the melody, and Israel felt a rubber band snap on the inside of his head. The room suddenly brightened, light bulbs humming with the effort, but he had not even realized how dark the room had gotten. He gave the room a cursory glance, finding the tables were a mess with plates and silverware scattered not only over the tables but the floor.

Everyone in the room looked around, brows furrowed with confusion, and they touched their tear-stained faces. Near the stage, one of the waitresses held the glass handle of a pitcher, and broken glass laid in a puddle of lemonade at her feet.

There was a fog in Israel’s head as he tried to remember what had happened, a heavy cotton forcing its way into the place where memories should be, and it made his head ache.

Clapping snapped him out of his head, and he turned to the six strangers, who stood from their seats as they applauded her performance. They had looks of awe on their faces—all identical and unsettling, just like they had been all night.

A shaky breath jerked Israel’s attention toward the stage. Tears had smeared Mity’s make-up all over her face, and she grimaced like she was in great pain as she stared at the six strangers. She clutched her instrument to her chest, and she touched the strings and the hairs on her bow.

Israel knew little about playing the violin, but he had heard her tell others not to touch them or it would ruin them. Yet in that moment, Mity did not care about that. She nearly fell as she climbed off the stool, and she kicked a heel to the side as she rushed to the back of the stage with only the stockings on her feet.

Mr. Bonner stepped on to the stage, clutching his microphone. He looked bewildered and wide-eyed, and his face was just as messy with tears as everyone else’s.

“Thank you, everyone,” he said in a wavering tone. “The restaurant is closing for tonight. Please pay your tabs on your way out.”

The proprietor just dropped the microphone, and he shambled behind the stage on stiff legs. There was a limp in his right leg.

The guests were quiet as they left. Cotton assaulted Israel’s mind as he struggled to remember what had happened, what had made the beautiful violinist so upset, but he could only remember the six strangers making a request but not the request itself.

Those six strangers were the only ones who left with smiles on their faces. Israel went to their table, and he found a stack of twenties among the mess, and the idea of touching it and tucking it into his pockets made him feel greasy. He left them, and he went to the break room.

It was not the bouquet he had entered the building with: the flowers were bigger and brighter. They were in the same arrangement as the flowers he had left there, but they looked so much better. The tear in the pink wildflower was gone. Each flower petal was perfect.

Israel picked up the bouquet. Their fragrance danced up to his nose, light and sweet. He felt the petals, and they were real—too soft to be anything like the artificial flowers he saw at the gas station every now and again. It had become a ritual between them: he bought her flowers after every performance, and she gave him a polite smile and “thank you.”

It was a ritual he hoped would bring her comfort.

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