Laura James’s Picture Choice: One
Title: The Fiddler
Marlon stood in the rain outside the house clutching his battered violin case. It had taken months of careful research but he had finally found the home of the once great violinist, Peter Strauss. Shaking he walked up the path only hoping that the man was home and would agree to see him.
Marlon didn't know how long he had stood at the front door unable to reach up and ring the bell, but it was no longer raining. He was soaked through and shaking yet could not bring himself to take the final step. What if Peter didn't live up to his expectations? Marlon had lived his life worshiping the great violinist, practicing all his works morning noon and night forsaking friends and family.
Just as he raised his hand to the bell the door opened, "I suppose you'd better come in."
"Mr Strauss, it's an honour. I..." Marlon stepped over the threshold, words catching in his throat. He was in the presence of greatness and all he wanted, all he needed to say had left him. He watched as the door was closed behind him and Peter shuffled past him further into the house. Marlon was surprised to see his hero so weak and old. Of course he knew that the violinist was in his eighties but he looked almost broken with age, his hands crippled with arthritis.
"Come through, come through." Peter lowered himself into a chair and waved for Marlon to do the same. "You have a violin case, I assume you play."
At the mention of his violin it was as if Marlon had been given permission to speak. The floodgates opened and he talked and talked. About his life, his love of violin, of the hours spent teaching himself how to play using a box and string. How he had saved enough to buy a real violin from a pawn shop, how he had found some of Peter's music and become addicted to the way Peter played.
Once Marlon had finished they sat in companionable silence until Peter lent forward and asked if Marlon would like to play him something.
"Really. But," Marlon fingered the latch on the violin case, "I'm not sure I'm good enough. I wouldn't want to disappoint you."
"I'd like to hear you play," Peter raised his own deformed hands "it's been a long time since there's been live music in my home."
Marlon opened the case, took out the instrument and got himself ready. Soon music filled the air and Marlon was lost in the moment. He came to the end but didn't stop, just moved straight onto a faster more complicated piece of work. Marlon was surprised at how fast his fingers were moving across the neck of the violin, he had never played as well as this before. He was aware that Peter had stood and shuffled across the room, picking up his own violin before returning to his seat.
"You're good, keep playing."
Marlon was tired but at his heroes request he played one more composition, ignoring the burning sensation in his fingers. As the music came to an end Marlon found he couldn't stop. He tried to lift the bow from the violin and is chin from the rest, but he was trapped. "I can't stop!"
"Don't worry. You're doing great, keep playing."
Marlon watched as Peter picked up his violin and started to play, his fingers were too crippled to do much but grip the neck yet he managed to produce some noise. As Marlon continued to play the heat from his fingers travelled up his hands and he started to make mistakes. Soon he felt as if his whole body was on fire and he was fused to the violin.
For every mistake Marlon made, Peter notes rang clearer. It didn't take long before Marlon could barely hold the violin, let alone run the bow across the string and Peter was playing as good as he had in his youth. Marlon finally dropped the instrument and sank back into the seat and listened as Peter continued to play. The music washed over him, calming the fire that burned through his body and he drifted along on a wave of peace.
When Marlon awoke all he felt was pain from head to toe, his fingers were clenched into claws and immobile on his lap. He blinked his eyes a few times but his vision was cloudy, out of focus. With every movement the pain got worse and he started to cough, spitting blood into his malformed hands. A sheet of paper had been tacked to his violin case and with great effort he snatched it up, concentrating on the words swimming in front of him.
Thank you for your gift of life. Your music will live on after you are gone.
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Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Laura is obsessed with all things horror and spends her time writing flash fiction which she hopes, on occasion, really scares her readers. Feel free to stalk her on twitter, @lejamez