…midweek flash challenge…
Her eyes fluttered open, the peacefulness of her dreamless sleep disturbed by the distant sound of a piano. Quiet, so quiet she strained to hear the whispered sound echoing through the air. Just enough to say there was a piano playing, somewhere. Not enough to narrow down a location. Slowly, as the last tendrils of sleeplessness gave way to full consciousness, the music became louder. She shifted, attempted to sit up, and was jerked back into place. Her wrists ached where rough rope bound them together, and anchored her to a tree. Memories trickled back as the piano played towards a crescendo. Aa afternoon walk, a fallen log blocking her path. A tingling sense of alarm, a chill of terror, all too late as the world went dark. The lengthening shadowed suggested hours had passed. Feeling her way along the rope that kept her trapped, she found a weak spot near where it knotted again the tree. She glanced around to be sure her captors weren’t within view, and shifted, putting tension on the rope and shimmying the already frayed section against the rough bark of the tree. Back and forth, back and forth, all the while glancing over her shoulder. Fibres slowly gave way, until the rope snapped. With a final check to be sure she wasn’t being observed, she fled through the forest, keeping the sun at her back and, as best she could tell, the music too. Bursting out into open grassland, she watched picnickers chatting and laughing as she tried to catch her breath. Safe. She was back at the start of the trail, safe. It was then she saw the piano standing in the middle of the picnic area. She walked over to it, and trailed her fingers along the keys. Had it been here when she’d started her walk? She would have sworn it wasn’t.
“It hasn’t played for years,” a voice crackled beside her. The old lady who had appeared to speak with her raised an eyebrow, as if to challenge her to disagree. “Some say it’s haunted, that they can hear music in the forest. I’ve been coming here for forty years and haven’t heard a thing.” The state of it certainly suggested it was beyond playing. Layers of dust, keys yellowed and uneven. A photo propped where the sheet music should be, a date scribbled in the corner placing it almost a century past, and yet, the face dripped with familiarity. The eyes piercing, searching, judging, waiting. Understanding hovered on the edges of her mind, pieces of puzzles falling into place.
She blinked. The photo disappeared. The piano, the old lady beside her, gone. Her wrists suddenly felt lighter, free of their binding ropes. The sun was once again high in the sky, not sinking towards the horizon as it had been a moment ago. The picnickers remained, seemingly undisturbed. Her backpack, last seen abandoned on the ground in the forest in her haste to run away, now sat neatly by her feet. Confused, she reached down to pick it up, trying to talk herself into believing she had only imagined the events of the afternoon. Objects don’t just disappear. Nor do people. Or ropes. Pianos don’t belong in forests, filling the valleys with mournful tunes. Time doesn’t run backwards. Overactive imagination was the only explanation. She gave herself a mental shake, trying to dislodge the sense of discomfort. Imagination, it must have been. She swung her backpack onto her shoulder, more than ready to leave and pretend she hadn’t spooked herself quite so thoroughly, only then noticing the bands of chafing, red rings around her wrists, as if they had been bound tightly with rope.
Joining Miranda Kate for the Midweek Flash challenge for the first time in forever. 615 very rusty words! I do miss the days where these little flash fiction challenges were a regular part of my creative play and blogging adventures. I couldn’t quite get it going the way I wanted, but words are words, and one has to start somewhere to re-establish the habit.