Tone Death

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​Without the musical genius of The Great Contini, Susan would have never had a singing career. indeed, she would have had nothing - born a girl from the streets, she would as surely have left a damp corpse on those same cobblestones if Contini hadn’t found her singing near a brothel some years back. And in the early going with him, life was easy. The parties, the dresses, the champagne. The champagne. The broken champagne glasses. The way he’d slap her in full view of the party, sending her upstairs for her insubordinate behavior. The laughs that echoed up the staircase as he no doubt told some boozy joke to sweep all the ugliness under the rug for their friends. And the way he’d sweet talk her after everyone left, a little-boy’s lilt that oozed conciliation. “You keep me together, Susan,” he’d insist, crocodile tears rolling down his cheeks, using his favored metaphor for her. “You’re my glue.” Yes, in a way, Susan felt she owed her life to him, which would explain the lack of struggle she gave when he wrapped his hands around her throat one week ago. Were he not bleary and blinded with drunken rage, Contini would have thought it odd that her eyes looked so calm even as air seemed to trickle from every pore and duct in her face, like a balloon deflating ever so slightly. Better here than on the streets, he thought to himself with a snicker as he dragged her body into the closet under the stairs. The afterlife posed many problems for Susan. Rooms she couldn’t escape, darkness she couldn’t penetrate, people she couldn’t communicate with. There was only this mansion, there was only Contini. And whilst one of them was still living, there was composing to be done. And so the hours beat on, a crumpled page here, a shattered tumbler there. And always, always the pounding of those fists on the keys. But one day, Susan no longer cared if what she did next sent her to Heaven or to Hell. Anything would be better than this house. “Dammit Susan, for the 50th time-” he bellowed, fists coming down hard on the organ, rattling his glass of scotch. Only this time, his fists didn’t come up to point fingers, or take a swig, or slap the sheet music off the stand. They remained rigid, shaking, stuck to the keys. His joints hardened, seemingly crystallizing, elbows bolting themselves to his ribs, blood beginning to trickle from his clenched fingers piercing the pads of his jittering, unmovable hands. Contini tried standing, but the force of his legs pushing against his frozen arms succeeded only in snapping the bone clean off, so that his forearms seemed to bend backwards like a mantis. A roar of pain escaped his mouth as he collapsed forward onto the organ. His cheek became affixed to the cherry wood of the organ, slurring his screams as every twist and exertion seemed to fasten him to the instrument more and more. His ear, his neck, his chest, every part of him crumpled and folded into the body of his most prized possession, the screams merging with the ever-present drone of the sour notes his bleeding fists continued to pound on. It was hard to tell which body was making which sound. Susan walked over to Contini, or what was still left of him, as his skin began to fracture his bones, then shatter them, then pull them closer and closer into the organ, like a porcelain doll being crushed under an invisible foot. One bugged eye, threatening to pop loose from a quivering, stretching socket, stared at her in fear, the last emotion he could muster before he became nothing but a pile of clothes. “You always said I was your glue, darling,” she growled. His life force subsumed entirely into the organ, the horrendous dirge of notes giving way to a geyser of blood fountaining from the pipes above, coating the ceiling in a shade of crimson and dripping down his sheet music. It was The Great Contini’s final piece - and some would say his most satisfying.


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