Black Sheep by ff_b

Chip and Clarice flipped houses, buying "fixer-uppers" badly in need of work, restoring them and then selling them at a tidy profit. Antiques were among their favorite acquisitions, so it came as no surprise when Chip trucked home an old upright piano one night to the place that they were actively remodeling. He had picked up the piano surprisingly cheap, and figured that they could always sell it at a mark-up as well.

"I'm getting some strange vibes from this one," commented Clarice as she walked around the piano, which they rolled into the living room. "There's something about it that just isn't right." Her sentiments seemed to heighten as the evening wore on, and she went to bed early with vague complaints of not feeling well. Chip joined her in bed a bit later, and in the wee hours of the morning they heard a distant, off-key rendition of "Baa Baa Black Sheep" played faintly as if from the piano that they had just acquired. Half asleep, Chip trudged downstairs to investigate the music, shuddering as a mouse scurried over his slipper. Funny, thought Chip, haven't seen any mice in the house up to this point!" Reaching the downstairs room where they had left the piano, Chip observed nothing. He could have sworn, however, that they had left the piano against a different wall. Rolling the piano on its casters to a different wall, Chip returned to bed.

The next morning as she went to prepare breakfast in the kitchen, Clarice screamed as she opened a cabinet to be greeted by a hastily-retreating mouse. "You gotta do something about these mice, Chip!," she demanded.

"OK, don't go ballistic!," he soothed. "I'll pick up some traps a bit later." Following breakfast, Chip took his coffee into the living room, nearly dropping his cup when he saw that the piano had inexplicably returned to its position the prior evening. He decided not to alarm Clarice, but hastily finished his coffee and went to town to buy the mousetraps.

Returning later, Chip found Clarice back in bed, again complaining of general malaise. He encouraged her to remain in bed, fetching a crowbar and a few other tools to remove some discolored wallboard while she rested. The work went well, but when he removed one panel Chip was startled when bones fell from behind it. The clatter of his rip hammer on the floor brought Clarice up from her bed. "Jesus!," she cried upon seeing the bones. "Are they human?- Was there a murder in this house?"

"I'm no expert, but I'm calling a professor of anthropology at the local college," responded Chip as he took out his cell phone. It turned out that the prof was a bit of a buff on psychic phenomena, so they got a commitment from him to come the next day. That evening, their sleep was again interrupted by the tinkling of the piano, and horrible screams, as if from an animal. The next morning, twelve mice were discovered caught in traps placed by the couple.

The anthropologist appeared by mid-morning, and examined the skeletal remains. "These aren't human bones," concluded Dr. Williams, Professor of Anthropology.

"What are they then?," asked Chip, intrigued. "What are they from?"

"I'm no zoologist, but most likely a calf, or perhaps a sheep," mused the professor. "You see, in the earlier part of the twentieth century, a lot of people did home butchering. They'd buy an animal from a local farmer, take it home, and butcher it themselves. Animal bones have been discovered under floorboards, or occasionally in walls."

"But what then about the unusual things that have been going on around here?," inquired Clarissa. "The infestation of mice, and the piano that apparently plays by itself?"

"Restless spirits sometimes manifest their presence through inanimate objects," suggested the professor. "It may be that the animal's spirit has attached itself to the piano. The rodent infestation may be yet another indication of this," he added. "And you, Clarice, appear to be especially sensitive to the presence of this animal spirit, as is suggested by your not feeling well!"

"Animal spirits?," scoffed Chip. "Are you saying that we have a restless animal spirit here?"

"Why of course animals have spirits!," responded Dr. Williams. "That animal was apparently killed here...and meat is murder!," he remarked.

"Well, what is to be done?," wondered Chip. "How can we relieve ourselves of this restless animal spirit?"

"You must perform a binding ceremony, one which ties the animal spirit to the possessed object so it cannot further spread or escape," answered the anthropologist, "and then the piano must be destroyed!," he concluded.

That evening, candles resting on the piano burned in their living room as Professor Williams performed a solemn ceremony. "We command and compel any and all spirits present to be bound to this piano, nevermore to wander afield!,"he intoned. Afterwards, Chip and the Professor rolled the piano outdoors and beat it to pieces with sledge hammers, then loaded the pieces on Chip's truck and took it to a field where they buried it.

"That should be the end of your troubles," declared the anthropologist. Chip slipped the professor a few bills, and he called that evening to check on the couple. Clarice picked up the phone.

"Are the lambs still screaming, Clarice?," asked the professor. "Do you hear the silence of the lambs?"

"All seems quiet here at last, Professor," answered Clarice. Thanking Dr. Williams again, the couple fell into a deep sleep for the first time in almost a week.

Their bodies would be found the next morning, lying in bed neatly butchered and wrapped in white paper, dispatched by an angry ovine spirit who, having been led to the slaughter, decided to better the instruction...