Antique Out of Tune

In the Walls of Music Boxes

I know where she’s hidden the music box, even if she refuses to tell me. Jane’s funny like that. At some time in the past I might’ve laughed at her taking it, but now it just saddens me. My music box played the prettiest songs all at the same time! But Jane stole it away from me and now I think I hate Jane. She always steals things from me.
She told me it was keeping people up at night since I played it near constantly. I don’t know what she’s talking about. What people? The one’s that live in the walls? They’re always asleep, one couldn’t pay mind to them or they’d simply go mad.
I told this to Jane and she told me there were no people in the walls.
There were people on the other sides of the walls,
I think Jane was lying.

Jane came to visit on Wednesday.
She looked really stressed and I told her so. Jane had a scar on her cheek that was brown and ugly. I told her so once and she left, but I like Jane so I tried not to tell her again…
“Mum and Pop are really worried about you. They thought you’d snap right out of this.” Jane said, pulling her hair worriedly. She shouldn’t do that.
“You shouldn’t do that.” I told her batting away her hands. Jane looked confused. I always had to explain things to Jane ,she never got things right!
“Pull on your hair.” I told her calmly though, “The ghosts tell me not to because it makes my head bleed.”
“Ghosts? Are you talking about the nurses?”
I furrowed my brow. Of course I wasn’t talking about nurses, what were nurses anyway? If I was talking about nurses I would’ve said nurses, but I said ghosts so I meant ghosts didn’t I? Or maybe I meant pigeons. No, pigeons made more noise and the ghosts had soft, lovely voices. They cooed.
I wish Jane would give me back my music box, I miss it’s pretty sounds.
“No.” Jane told me firmly, “You keep all the other patients awake at night playing that thing and the nurses told me to take it. You can have it back when you’re all better.”
“HEY!” I shouted, “We shouldn’t whisper so loud! There are people in the walls and they can’t sleep with us whispering so loudly!”
Jane left soon after and I wish I hadn’t whispered quite so.

She came back on Wednesday.
She looked tired again.
“Ya know.” She said, “Delilah is growing up really fast. If you got better, you could come home and see her again. She misses you.”
“Of course she does. I’m magnificent, why wouldn’t anyone miss me?” I said proudly. Jane smiled and she had a beautiful smile.
“Why doesn’t Delilah ever visit?” I asked sullenly. Jane tapped her hands on the glass of my window. She had long fingernails. Like claws,
Tap tap tap tap.
“She hates to see you like this.”
tap tap tap
“But she doesn’t hate you of course. But you can see how it’s hard for her.”
“I do.”
“Do you really?” Jane asked, bloody lips pursing, “Do you even know where you are?”
“Of course!” I answered haughtily.
“Really now? Where are you?”
“We’re in the walls aren’t we?”

She came back on Wednesday.
I looked at her. At her bloody lips and bloody fingers and curly hair and ugly brown scar.
“I hate you.” I said.
“That’s okay.” Jane looked at me for a long time.
“Because I hate you too.”

The next time Jane came she brought my music box.
I was so happy I forgot to thank her.
tap tap tap tap
The music box was lovely. It made such lovely noises.
“I don’t know why you like that thing. It doesn’t even work properly, just makes weird clunking noises.”
Don’t worry dear, she’s just jealous because the music doesn’t like her. The people in the walls like the music too. We’ll all sing and dance and laugh and it’ll be just like
old times eh?
Just like old times…
Jane looked sad so I stopped my box and asked her what was wrong.
She started to cry and sob out between breaths that she missed me, mum and pop missed me, Delilah missed me, and all she wanted was for me to get better.
I tried to explain to her that if Jane would just let me go then everything would be fine. I was tired of these white walls and these white tables and beds and ghastly white ghosts that roamed the halls. White made me want to throw up. White was the color of death.
Jane was white. Jane was white. Jane was dead.
Jack and Jane went up the hill-
“That’s wrong.” Jane told me, “It’s Jack and Jill went up the hill.”
-to fetch some medicine because Delilah was dying-
“Stop that.”
-but Jack fell down and broke his head-
“I said stop.” Jane was crying again. When had she stopped?
-and now all Jane does is cry!
I was pleased with my singing but I couldn’t hear my own thoughts over the sound of Jane’s wails. I was sure I sang it right.
Jane had gotten so pale.
White as death.
Why do I keep thinking it’s Wednesday?

Jane came on Thursday which was odd since every day is a Wednesday here and Thursdays are impossible.
“I’m leaving.”
“But you’ve only just arrived! I haven’t even set out tea yet!”
Jane looked at me severely and I was cowed. I stopped talking.
She knelt down and took my hands in hers. I noticed how white my hands were. When did they get so white? What a horrid color.
Jane looked at me with her pretty blue eyes. It’s all right love, Alice love, we won’t let the vultures snatch away your lovely eyes. They’re all you have left aren’t they? You don’t even have me.
“I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep taking time out of my life for you Jack. I need to raise Delilah up to be a strong young lady, and I can’t do that because coming here.” She breathed in deeply, like a well, “It makes me weak.”
Who was Jack?
“He sounds like a right young fellow.” I soothed her.
Oh Jane, lovely Jane don’t cry. Don’t you remember when we fell in love? I proposed to you on a skyscraper and you were so lovely and everythings right. Everythings fine.
“No!” Jane sobbed, “It’s not fine! I want you back! I want all of you here with me but ever since-”
Jane, Janey everythings fine. I’ll hold you. Don’t cry. There are no people in the walls. There are no ghosts, there are no Wednesdays, there is no music because the music box is broke. There is no deathly white and there is no scar on your face, it’s just a birthmark. I’ll hold you don’t cry.
“Every day I come here for you Jack because I love you and I’m struggling so damn hard to hold onto your sanity Jack but it’s gone and I can’t bring it back.” Jane sniffled, “Did you never love us Jack? If you loved us why did you leave us?”
There is no blood on you, you’re so pure Janey. You’re fingernails aren’t claws, and I don’t hate you Janey. I love you.
“I hate what you’ve done to yourself Jack!”
I love you Janey.
“I hate it!”
Janey.
Janey.
Janey.
Janey come back. Please. I’m alright now I promise. Jane! I love you! I-
Oh Jane you’re back!
“Jack are you okay? I’m sorry I had to run to the bathroom. You were showing me pictures of your family right?”
Ah yes! This one here is Jane, my wife. That’s Delilah, my daughter.
“Oh they’re both beautiful!”
Yes yes. But now they’re white.
“They’re…white?”
Yes yes, white as this room by now.
Jack and Jane went up the hill
To fetch some medicine for Delilah
But Jack fell down and broke his head
And now all we do is cry.

5 comments

  1. “I told this to Jane and she told me there were no people in the walls.
    There were people on the other sides of the walls,
    I think Jane was lying.”
    This was a strong turn in the story, for me. This is when I started to suspect the character was mentally ill. Lovely.

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. That was intended to be the first key part where the reader goes “Wait what.” and you definitely got it! Have a smiley. :)

  2. Wow, this was a very strong piece, I was reading it aloud to myself (since that’s kind of what I do) and tears were streaming along with hers. I’m almost afraid to ask if this was based on personal experience or something else from the real world.

    I produce an audiobook podcast (That’s what Telling of Tales is) and would love to read this on the podcast if you’d let me. :) If you’re interested, contact me through my blog and we’ll talk.

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