“I still can’t figure out why we had to leave that apartment?” Zoe said with an abrade face.
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon when Mr. James Rochella drove their family to an old house he had recently escorted outside their hometown in San Diego. It was only a week ago when the Rochella family had shifted into a brand new apartment that had three master bedrooms and a modular kitchen with common architectural designs. Unfortunately, not even a single day had elapsed when Mrs. Brigitta Rochella complained about a man in a long black coat with a resentful look stalking her by peering through her bedroom windows. Surprisingly, Mr. Rochella, staying in the same room, never noticed it, nor did the other residents of that floor.
“Be quiet Zoe!” Mrs. Rochella said with a shake of her head. “Thank the Gods that your dad managed to find us another house within a week. Anyways the police didn’t really regard my problem as an issue which leaves us with no other preferences.”
“Like obviously the cops won’t waste their time searching for a non-existing or invisible thing. And what do you mean by ‘GODS’? It’s ‘GOD’ mom.” said Zoe mimicking her mother.
“ZOE! WHERE ARE YOUR MANNERS?” Mr. Rochella snapped at once.
“And you call yourself my sister,” said Elijah Rochella.
Zoe Brigitta Rochella was a bored, increasingly bold, unsophisticated, tall, and tanned with blonde hair and a brilliant 16-year-old daughter of the Rochellas, who is holding a grudge on her parents for abandoning such a lavish place for a stupid stalker and moving into an old building. She was the oldest child and had a younger brother Elijah Blaire Rochella. He was ambitious, unselfish, tall, and tanned with well-combed hair. A satisfied and talented 14 years old he was also the favourite child.
It was nearly 6 pm by the time they reached the house. It was still raining heavily. Mr. Rochella absconded out of the car with an umbrella followed by Mrs. Rochella and then Zoe and Elijah. For a minute the four of them stared at the house. It was a two-storey building with dust and cobwebs at the entire forepart. With paints peeling off the walls. There were huge trees that looked as if they had a tragic history. It was at that time Zoe noticed that it was the only house in the middle of the forest.
“Let’s get going then,” said Mr. Rochella.
As they were infiltrating inside, Mrs. Rochella pulled behind Elijah and waited till her husband and daughter retreated into the hallway’s darkness.
“Any idea what is this dear?” she told Elijah pointing at a music box. It looked extremely old with rusted small pins and other projections mounted on its surface and dusty decorations.
“Umm a music box?” he said.
“As always, correct.” She said with a broad smile.“So, there is a special reason behind why I am giving this to you. This music box was first made by my greatest of the greatest grandfather in 1710 as a gift to his wife who had a great voice and a taste for music. It has been passed down from generation to generation. And guess what; just like me, you have a great musical talent. And I am sure there’s a bright melodic future waiting for you. It doesn’t really play music when you open it because it’s obviously too old, but just to continue the tradition. I gift it to you.”
“Thank you so much Mom. I love you”. He said.
“Love you too dear.”
As soon as they entered the house, they realised that the house was much bigger than it looked from the outside. The hallways were long and wide enough to play badminton. Towards the left of the entrance was a T.V. room. It had a single sofa with a small tea table and a 70s T.V. at the front. The carpet was dusty and the spider webs covered the whole ceilings. And towards the left was a kitchen which was staid and substantial with a lot of unwashed dishes on the sink and a two-door fridge which didn’t really work perfectly. Out of all, the nightmare for Mrs. Rochella was the absence of an oven. Like obviously, she cannot deny the fact that she loved her hand-made olive cheese pizzas, no matter how much she insisted her children eat healthy. In order to reach the stairs, you would have to do a 2 min jog in the hall. The 1st floor had a simple roofline with no architectural designs. Within that single long floor were 3 rooms. Each with the measurements of 0.34 x 0.34 dimensions and including the ‘not so luxurious bedrooms’.
That night took place quietly in their new ‘or so-called old’ home with pork stew and grilled chicken as a meal. The next two days were quite regular. Mr. and Mrs. Rochella woke up at six in the morning. While she cooked, Mr. Rochella awoke the children and told them to get dressed for school and himself get ready for the office. By the evening, the children would return with their father after school and Mrs. Rochella would be busy cleaning the house. Elijah seemed to forget about his music box.
It was a bright Saturday morning and it was a break from school, after Elijah had his breakfast, he started exploring the house. After 20 minutes of exploring, he found a secret tunnel inside the walls of the hallway. Curious, he followed the tunnel and discovered some stairs that went down to the basement. He went down the stairs for about a minute or two until he found a secret room. The room was dark, dusty and empty. Something was weird in that room that made him stay. He then turned on his phone flashlights. He found out that there was a string that was attached to the ceiling. When he pulled it down, a light bulb turned on, filling the room with light. He found out that there was only a lantern sitting in the middle of the room. He thought to himself, ‘Why would anyone build a room here?’ His train of thoughts was broken when his mother called him. So he ignored it and went.
He decided not to tell anyone. When he reached upstairs, he discovered that it was already 2pm and time for lunch. But something about it felt wrong, it was only 11 am when he went down there, how come 3 hours passed without his knowledge?
“You weren’t in your room the whole day.” Zoe said with a suspicious look during lunch.” Where have you been?”
“My presence has never bothered you, why is the absence making any difference then, may I ask?” Elijah said cautiously.
“YOU BETTER NOT SHOW YOUR SAVAGENESS TO ME, ELIJAH ROCHELLA. SHOW THIS TO THE ONE WHO THINKS YOU HAVE A MELODIOUS FUTURE.” Zoe imitated her mom and then left the table at once, leaving behind Elijah and her mom startled at the sight.
Later that evening he took literally all his stuff to the new room. His favourite The Rock’s posters, a sleeping bag, a pillow, some water bottles, comic books and the music box. Some nights he would even sneak out alone to sleep there.
On one dark rainy night, Elijah was in his special room looking at the music box. It was at this point that he realised how beautifully handcrafted a masterpiece that was. He stared at it in awe imagining how it was made. As soon as he got ready for bed, he heard his mother’s scream. He hurried upstairs and stopped at the wall. Through the cracks in the wall, he saw something that made chills run down his spines. Two masked men had broken into the house. Each wore a long coat and had a gun. Her mother was on the ground in the middle of the hall. And then he saw his dad coming down the stairs. Before he could shoot them, the men shot him. He heard a loud crack noise come from his father as he fell down and he didn’t seem to move. Elijah had tears in his eyes and tried hard to stop.
“What do you want from us?” her mother said with terror and tears flowing through her eyes.
No one answered and then one of them went upstairs while the other kept an eye on her. He then heard another shot from the upper floor and was sure it was Zoe. Guilt mixed with memories were overflowing inside him. Before he could think anymore. One of the men said,
“Where is that music box?”
He had what they were looking for. For a moment he thought that he must give it to them. Maybe just maybe after that, his dad will wake from his nap and Zoe from her sleep. He was still confused whether he was in a terrible dream or in reality.
“I don’t have it, let us go” her mother shrieked.
Just after that, the second man came downstairs and they probably had a small fight in a language that he didn’t understand. But then in a quick second one of them aimed right at her skull and shot.
“NO,” Elijah screamed and let out a small cry.
One of them asked him to come out and promised that they wouldn’t hurt them, but he didn’t believe them. And he then went down and sat in the middle, crying his eyes out. Just after that, he sensed that he wasn’t only the one in the room. He made a wish for that appearance in the room. He wished for all the bad stuff to go away. His mother, dad and Zoe come back. He continued repeating that. Just then the light in the room started flickering and he felt the shadows gathering around him. But after that, all the lights in the room went out and the shadows disappeared. He was alone in the dark, so he turned on his lantern. As soon as he turned it on, the music box appeared in front of him and started playing.
He couldn’t believe what he was seeing or hearing. It was playing an eerie song and looked brand new. He became calm and stopped crying. He didn’t care how it came and just stared at it in awe. Soon some whispers seemed to be ringing in his ears and the shadows came back. The whispers asked them whether he was sure about his desire. He looked at the box and got reminded of his mother giving it to him. She gave it to him because she loved him so much.
“Yes,” he said without taking his eyes off the box.
“But with one condition,” the shadows said.
“Not a problem.”
Soon the whispers became louder and his whole body was covered in the shadows. He didn’t fight it nor was he scared of it. He didn’t move. Soon he was pulled into the shadows. The music box stayed there, opened and playing music.
In the distance, screams rang through the whole house, sounds of bullets flying everywhere. The sounds of footsteps running, glass breaking, things plunging and sounds of men pleading for life, being dragged across the floorboard until they couldn’t be heard anymore. Yet the music box plays. One left to pay for what he did, who shot his mother. The screams and the shouts of the man dying a slow, painful death mollify him and the music box. The sound of the box keeps fading, fading until it can be heard no more. Elijah’s calmed for now……..or forever?
“But it was abandoned 20 years ago dear”
“But I did see a boy smiling through that window,” Anna said, convincing her mom “I am not lying.”
Sonia Saha writes horror based short stories and historical fiction. Her special interests lies in literature, history, playing piano and journalism. She has also won numerous awards in terms of debate, story writing, painting and singing. Taylor Swift, Ruskin Bond, Jk Rowling and Emma Watson are some of her inspirational idols. The story that she has written involves thriller, suspense, horror and gives a chance to the reader to imagine the consequences at the end. She currently resides in Cuttack, Odisha.