A Halloween Special
David let the music flow through his fingers, and his concentration with it. His mind was on the keys in front of him, constantly being soothed by the Grand piano's soft grace. Mozart's fifth, he recalled, had been embedded in his mind since he first heard and fell in love with it when he was 14.
He closed his eyes as he played, and as he did his mind slowly drifted back into itself, shutting out the world around him until all he could hear was his music. It sounded so soft, so elegant, and so smooth. The music bounced off the walls and came back to David's ears undisturbed; reassuring him there was no one else in the bar.
In his mind he visualized himself playing the piano, as if he were standing a mere ten feet away. He imagined watching himself bend and lean with the music, watching his own eyes close as he threw his own head back. He could see himself seeing himself.
David slowly started visualizing the room around his imaginary self. He would be sitting at a table, a small one, probably meant for sharing a cocktail with a friend. Yes, and his imaginary self would be alone, not just at the table but in the whole room. There would be other cocktail tables scattered randomly around the room, with chairs stacked on top of them, as if it were closing time and everyone had already left. The bar behind his imaginary self would have no one tending it, and the lights would illuminate the bottles of liquor seated on the shelf so that they looked like amber gems fitted perfectly to the crystal bottles they rested in. And the walls, the walls were a deep red, the red used for a woman's dress she might wear to a party, or the red on roses boyfriends got their girlfriends for valentine's day. The door to the bar would be closed, locked, and through the glass panes, David's imaginary self could see rain starting to downpour.
David stopped playing and opened his eyes. Everything around him was exactly as he had imagined it, not one detail missing; the cocktail tables, the chairs, the walls, the emptiness. He smiled. His imagination had served him well.
He closed his eyes again, this time without playing. He could hear the very faint sound of the rain outside, patting ever so lightly against the glass door. Somewhere in the distance thunder rolled a soft growl. David smiled. He loved this rainy weather.
David hung his head and gave his neck a break. Mozart's fifth… he could remember the night he heard it first, at his first formal concert, it had been raining that night. The artist took the stage and from the moment his fingers touched the keys, David instantly fell in love with the piece's dark and calm, saddening yet soothing tone. It only got better as the piece progressed, building up and building up until at one point it reached it's climax, the anger of the piece finally coming out, until it slowed and finally stopped. David had wanted to learn the piece ever since then, and he had kept it memorized since.
He lifted his head up and stared out at the rain again. Rain had been a constant companion to him when he was a teenager, because he knew that wherever he went there would always be somewhere inside he could go, just to get away from the rain. The rain was an enemy that wasn't menacing, because you could always say no to it. David could remember staring out his bedroom window at the rain and feeling so safe and secure, because it couldn't touch him. It would tap against his window and the thunder would growl but nothing could break through that window. Nothing could touch him.
David broke his gaze and returned it to the piano. He remembered this was the challenging part of the piece, the part right before the buildup. No matter, he knew it all be heart anyway.
David pressed down the keys he had so methodically memorized before, sinking back into rhythm. Once he was confident enough that he wouldn't mess up, he slipped back into his own mind, back to his imaginary friend.
That's what he would be, David decided. His imaginary self would be an imaginary friend. What was a good imaginary friend name? Frank sounded nice, he decided. Frank it is. 'Is Frank an OK name with you, Frank?' to which, Frank would respond, 'Yes Dave, Frank sounds like a fine name.' OK, step one complete, now to focus on his looks.
Frank should be sophisticated-looking; after all, David had always wanted to be sophisticated himself, why couldn't his friend be sophisticated? 'What do sophisticated people look like anyways?' Old, definitely old, with a clean shave too. David decided he should have wispy white hair, combed neatly to the side, like a butler. Yeah, a butler, Frank was David's butler. Frank would be thin, all butlers were thin. Butlers also wore fancy clothes, like suits. But a black suit would not dignify Frank, no, no, Frank deserved something more… distinguished. A red suit, a red suit would work. The jacket would be the same red as the walls, with a white undershirt and a black bowtie, and black pants. David's imaginary friend was beginning to seem very lifelike.
David brought his attention away from Frank and towards the piano. It was time to start the crescendo. David leaned his body forward to reach the piano better, and focused only on hitting the right notes.
The piece progressively got louder and quicker, and David hit each chord with precise accuracy. He could feel his heart starting to increase beat along with the music, and he felt the blood flowing through his veins. He could feel his muscles starting to tense as he played, constantly moving and not once giving them a rest. As the piece intensified so did David, going rigid at points and nearly cramping at others. The piece finally reached its climax and then faded into silence, and David gave his muscles a break.
He sat at the piano in silence, thick silence, surrounding him, deafening… except for the sound of the rain. And man, did he love this rainy weather.
David slowly lifted his head up to look out the glass door again. The rain was still coming, now more of a slant than a straight downpour. It had formed little puddles in the gutters across the street, which rippled with every drop that hit, and David could see the yellow streetlight shining off the asphalt from the sheet of water that covered it. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen it rain in this town.
It rained the night his father had left him, the same night he heard that piece for the first time. It had rained that night, and every night after for the next month. He could remember walking home with his dad from the concert completely thrilled from it and his dad stopping him and asking him to take a seat. The two of them sat there for an eternity, until it started to sprinkle. He could remember the rain covering him like a shower, and he could remember feeling the cold seep through his clothes and into his skin. He could remember feeling each drop sting as it hit bare skin, the shock of the cold sending shivers down his spine. He could remember staring into the distance and seeing nothing but black beyond the streetlamp, the black his father had walked into.
He could remember staring his father in the face and watching his lips form the words, "Don't follow me. Your mother will take care of you now." David remembered watching that man turn, and move slowly into the darkness, his head hung. David remembered feeling more hate that night than he had ever before.
He also remembered feeling lonelier that night than he had ever since.
David remembered wanting to run and scream into the dark and cry and punch and kick something, to be dry and warm and be held by someone, by his dad. He remembered thinking that that night, he couldn't say no to the rain. It was sinking into him, consuming him. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide beneath the sheets and stay warm, no one there to tell him everything was going to be okay. He was alone, and that's the way it was going to be from then on.
"Daydreaming, are we?"
David jerked and spun to face the foreign voice. He had been alone, he was sure of it. Who had snuck in without him noticing?
When David faced where the voice came from, there was no one there, except, one of the tables' chairs had been moved and were placed around it.
"Not there, David."
David spun around again to face the man. He jerked back when he saw how close he was. The first thing he noticed was his blood-red jacket. A suit jacket. David's eyes climbed to meet his, which were gray and cold. He was old, with wrinkles in his face and thin white hair combed to one side.
"Who…" David started but didn't finish. He turned around to the table, the one with the chairs pulled out. If he wasn't mistaken, that was where he had imagined himself sitting. Where he had imagined Frank sitting.
David turned white. He sprang off the piano bench but tripped and fell, hitting his head on the way down. As soon as his hands hit the ground he scrambled away until he hit the bar.
"Are you afraid, David?"
David turned to look at Frank. He tried speaking but his mouth could not form the words.
"I am your creation, David, you have nothing to fear. You have the power over me."
David couldn't believe what he was seeing. He looked at his hand to see if it was still there. Was he dreaming?
"Come on, sit down." Frank motioned with his hand to the piano seat.
David didn't move.
"Ok, fine." Frank walked over behind the bar, picked up a glass, and ran a towel over it. "You are going to have to move sometime."
The cement that had been holding David's legs released, and he nearly fell over. He grabbed a table to stable himself. "Wh… What…" David steadied himself and took a breath. "What are you doing here?" David slowly brought his eyes to meet Frank's.
Frank had a puzzled look on his face. "That is a question that you have to answer." He put the glass down. "Why do you want me here?"
David made his way over to the piano bench. "I… I don't… You're supposed to be part of my imagination."
"Who says I'm not?" Frank picked up another glass and started drying it. "Isn't this what you imagined in the first place?"
David's mind was racing. "So, none of this is real?"
"Well I wouldn't say that. What's real anyway?" He set the glass down and walked away from the bar. "If I remember correctly, you had me seated here." He stopped at the table with the chairs around it, and took a seat. "And you were playing some song." He looked down and then up, as if he saw something move out of his eye. "Play me that song."
David didn't feel much like arguing, so he pressed down some keys that made no melodic tune whatsoever. What was he doing? He dropped his hands into his lap and looked down.
"Why did you stop?" Frank asked from behind him.
David turned to meet him. "I can't remember it."
"What? You just played it."
"I know. I completely forgot how it goes."
Frank looked like he was slightly annoyed, but shook his head and turned toward the glass door. "Tell me about your father, David."
"Your father, my father, our father, whatever you want to call him."
David turned and stared out the glass door into the rain as well. "Well," he began, "He left me when I was 11…" He really didn't want to be talking about this, "… And that's pretty much all there is to it." He turned to face Frank.
Frank eyed him suspiciously. "That's not all there is and you know it." He leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. He narrowed his eyes. "David, talk to me."
David raised his eyebrows. He was talking to his imaginary self, his mind's creation… he should stop this. Stop it before he completely lost himself. But then again, if he were talking to himself then David could truly confide in this person. If this was true Frank could be the only one in the world David could truly trust.
"Tell me what you remember about him."
David stared Frank in the eyes. "I remember stupid little memories. Mostly I've tried to eradicate any and all memories of him." David broke eye contact and looked at the floor. "I can remember him screaming at my mom and almost hitting her, except they were in public. I could always tell when he was angry. His lips would get really thin and his eyes never changed, they just always looked… determined. Like he was waiting for this to be over so he could get to the end. And he would…" David shook his head, "He would just make these jokes. They wouldn't ever be funny, but they always were meant to hurt someone. Besides that he never talked. It's like his sole purpose for living when he was mad was to make you feel like you were worthless."
"And that's what he did, didn't he?"
David looked at Frank again. "Yeah, I guess so."
Frank leaned back in his chair. "What else do you remember?"
"I remember there was this one day where we went to an amusement park, I was only like seven at the time. I remember I was too small to ride any of the roller coasters that he wanted to ride, but I remember he rode all of the kiddy rides with me. I could tell he really didn't want to be doing that, but I didn't care. He put on a smile the entire time we were there, but I could tell he wasn't having fun. I knew the rides were probably torture on him, that the lines and the stupid clown music and the crappy food was probably annoying him to no end, but he put on a smile, and so I didn't care.
"But then one night we went for a walk and he took me to one of my favorite parks as a kid. We went up on top of a hill and sat and talked for a long time. I remember feeling special because it was past my bedtime. And then it started raining. I was getting cold and soaked, so I asked him if we could go home now. He looked down at the ground and said we couldn't, or at least he couldn't. He told me he was leaving me and my mom, that him and her had had enough of each other and that he had to go. He told me he was sorry and that I shouldn't follow him, because that would only lead to pain." David looked down at the ground. He could feel the heat behind his eyes and the beginnings of tears forming in his eyes.
Frank let out a painful breath. "And that's when you felt more anger than ever before, correct?"
"And that's when you felt your loneliest."
David continued staring at the ground. "… Yes."
"And that's why you created me, because you can't face yourself. What you are is nothing, it was emptied when your father left you, and now you've created somebody to talk to, to fill you up."
David scratched his head but didn't look up. He knew it was true.
"I am your imagination. David, I am you."
David looked up, but Frank wasn't there anymore. He turned his head and saw a man that looked passed out on a table about ten feet in front of him. His laid with his back against the table and his beer gut stuck up in the air like a boulder. His eyes were closed and his mouth hung open, and he wore a flannel shirt and blue jeans.
"He's unconscious, in case you're wondering." David turned and saw that Frank was behind the bar again, drying away.
"What did you say your dad made you feel like?"
David remained silent for a few moments, then slowly got up and walked over to the bar. "He made me feel like the worst person in the world," he said. "He made me feel like no one could want me."
"And what did that make you feel like?"
"Angry. Angry and alone."
Frank leaned in so he was a mere inch from David's ear and whispered, "It made you want to hurt, didn't it? It made you want to hurt something so bad and watch it squirm and plead and suffer and die, didn't it? Am I wrong, David?" David heard him exhale very slowly and lick his lips. He continued in an even softer voice than before. "He wouldn't be able to put up a fight if anything were to happen to him." He straightened and stared David in the face. He raised his eyebrows and smiled.
David stood still for a minute, trying to figure out what he meant, and then slowly began to nod. He understood. His father had left him there on that hill alone, in desperate need. His father had killed something innocent that night, he had given birth to this evil inside David, Frank. It was his dad's fault he was here, and the rage that built up in David was because his dad had pushed him to this, to making up pathetic little butlers in his mind for what? So he wouldn't feel as sorry for himself?
He turned and faced the man on the table, with nothing but the sound of his breathing and the rain outside to break the silence and started walking toward him. How perfect was it that the night his father left him, it had been raining the hardest he had ever felt it? He circled around to the foot of the table and stopped. How perfect was it that tonight, when it happened to be pouring harder than it had in years, that he could retake some of the innocence his father had taken from him? He could see Frank behind the bar smiling at him. He saw him open his mouth to talk, but he didn't hear the words in his ears this time, he heard them in his head.
What are you going to do David?
I'm going to kill this man.
Oh, that's evil David.
Yes, but I'm beginning to wonder if that's such a bad thing.
I know, I know exactly what you mean, and I'm proud of you.
David looked down at his right hand and saw he was holding a butcher's knife. He looked up at the man on the table. A bolt of thunder sounded in the distance and David looked out the window. He hated this rainy weather, all it did was remind him of better times with a father who cared and a home that he could feel comfortable in, of a time when he didn't have this constant growing anxiety and when his only companion wasn't his own loneliness.
He placed his left hand on the man's chest and held it there for a few moments, feeling it rise and fall with each breath. David leaned in and put his ear to the man's mouth and listened to each nasally, congested breath. More than anything he hated the rain because it made him realize what he had lost that night, it made him realize he had lost himself along with his dad, and that he had become a whole new person because of it. And the worst part was, he no longer cared.
He lifted his right hand, placed the knife's tip directly over the center of the man's chest, and held it there. For a moment nothing moved.
David sunk the knife as far into the man as it could go, slowly. The man's eyes shot open, terrified. He made a sudden move to grab the knife, but the farther it went in the less the man moved. There was no hate or anger, no dramatic music that always happened in the movies; there was just a sickening relief, a perverted sense of joy. He had done it, he had killed a man, and it was exhilarating. David watched the man's expression turn from shock to confusion to pure pleading, and the feeling of sick pleasure in the pit of his stomach grew. He heard the man stop breathing, felt his heart stop pumping, and watched as his head thudded back to rest on the table, the pathetically hopeless look still on his face. A red spot began to spread on the man's shirt.
David looked up and saw Frank smiling in approval. David returned the smile. He walked back over to the piano and sat. 'Play me a song, David,' Frank echoed through his head.
He would, David would play a song. The occasion called for one.
Before he started, David looked back up at the man on the table, and saw that he wasn't there. He turned and looked for Frank, but he didn't find him either. He was where he started, alone once again, just him and the rain. David smiled, and began playing.