8th Grade, 3rd Place
by Kani Sy,
Georgia College Early College
Anton Chernov is my name. I’m a pianist for the Bolshi Theater. I mainly play the Grand Piano but occasionally the Organ. I’ve made playing music my passion and career. Russian critics say I’m one of Russia’s most refined. Music has always been my guide in life and I shall continue to pour my soul into it until my final day. The theater opens back up again in October to commence our fall showings. As their best pianist, I will be expected at every one of them. This time, however; I’m playing the Organ for all the showings. Odd, but perhaps it’s due to the spooky season approaching. This year there are a lot of upcoming shows. Which means I’d have to work longer. I wouldn’t mind if it weren’t for my wife, Vanya. I dread having to tell her.
I drove up to my home. I turned the nob and my wife was awaiting me. “Vanya, my love, I’m home,” I softly spoke to her. “Oh, Anton you don’t know how thrilled I am to see you! I knew you’d be famished so I made supper.” I gave her a thank you for being so considerate. The Mulligan Soup was delicious. We did our routine and then headed to bed.
I woke up at dawn to prepare to go to the theater after Vanya made a fuss about it. We had a lot of Russia’s socialites coming to see Swan Lake. I adore this ballet because I love Tchaikovsky. This man was a genius composer. As I walked into the theater I passed by a lot of socialites. There was one paring in particular that I found the most peculiar.
It was a father and daughter. The father seemed to be a scientist and the daughter was dressed as a ballerina. Now I would’ve paid no attention to them if it wasn’t for how haunting they looked. The daughter, no more than seven or eight, had long jet-black hair, pale white skin, and the darkest under eyes. Her lips were more chapped than the Sahara and her posture was like a twig. The father was the same way except for his spectacles and his hair was medium length.
Although I was frightened, I felt drawn to approach them. I put on my best-excited face and said, “Hello! I’m Anton Chernov, the pianist for this ballet.” Nothing. They said nothing. The man just smiled at me so I smiled back, waved, and walked to the orchestra’s break room. I was fear-stricken the entire walk back. My hands were shaking excessively so I wasn’t even sure if I could play. “Opening in 20 minutes,” the stage hand said. I guess it’s time for me to play.
The play went fine and Vanya was backstage to congratulate me. Then, that spooky pair came up to me. “We love the work. My daughter, Adeilya, would love to dance to your music on a stage one day.” The man said with a raspy, flat, and unforgettable tone. “Oh thank you! We’ll see.” I said with a light chuckle. Then, I saw it. The little girl had smiled. A spooky smile. How I wished she had just closed her mouth. I don’t understand why such a terrifying girl has such a beautiful name.
“Come to my manor and we’ll see what you can do for Adeilya. Dr. Nikoli Popov should be on the door,” the man said, pulling out a card. “Oh Uhm okay,” I replied to the man. I had a feeling that I shouldn’t say no. I watched as they walked and away and Vanya rambled on and on about how frightening they are. I agreed with every word.
Saturday rolled around and I was supposed to go to Dr. Popov’s manor. I kissed Vanya goodbye and jokingly said, “Pray for me to come back.” She smiled and her pearly white teeth were shining. Her blonde hair was in perfect curls. Her skin was clear and her lips as red as a rose. I always admired my wife’s looks but that day I studied them.
As I walked through the doors of the manor I saw no one there but the doctor and his aspiring ballerina. There she was with that awful smile again. Dr. Popov led me to his home theater and a beautiful organ was beside it. His daughter walked onto the stage in silk pastel-pink pointe shoes, pastel-pink tights, and a pastel-pink leotard. She just smiled and stood there as if she was waiting for something. “Play something a little scary, she loves the spooky season.” I nodded in agreement to Dr. Popov and played Toccata and Fuge in D minor.
After I had finished playing the mood changed. The girl had stopped smiling, thankfully, and Dr. Popov looked a lot more stern and stated, “Adeilya loved it and she’d love to hear you play forever.” I issued a thank you but he continued. “Would you like to?” “Oh thank you but, I’d like to settle down and start a family with my wife, Vanya. Eventually, stop playing music,” I lied. “I see. Your wife has a long life ahead of her. If you want to keep it that way, you will play for my Adeilya forever,” the doctor demanded. My face had drained all of its colors. I would’ve taken it as a joke if it wasn’t for how weird they are.
“Alright… Just don’t hurt her. She’s my life,” I stuttered. He and his daughter then started to jump in excitement and I was ordered to play. I played and played for minutes, hours, days, years, and decades. My strained fingers screamed every time I was given a break to eat, sleep, or maintain hygiene. My wife was allowed to visit me once a year on the fifth of October, the date that I came here. I appreciate how she always stayed loyal to me.
Every year on the 31st of October, ghosts filled the manor and danced the night away. On those nights my fingers bled the most. I
yearned for daylight. I yearned for the cold morning air. I even yearned for the awful smell in the alleys. I miss the freedom and if given the chance I would’ve run from the Bolshi theater the day I laid eyes on it. I would’ve taken Vanya to a humble country like Switzerland and started a family there.
The fifth of October came around once more and I was excited to see Vanya. We both have grown old together in spirit but not physically. This October there was no Vanya. I had asked the old doctor where she was and later that day I was alerted of her passing. I wept. I wanted to be with her again. For her to make me Mulligan Soup for supper after a long day when she knew I’d be famished. To see her pearly whites smiling at me. To get out of this horrifying house. To let those ghosts dance in silence and let the little girl, whose not so little now, admire the quiet.
I was tired. Burnt out more like it. I no longer admired Tchaikovsky and hated the sound of Toccata and Fuge in D minor. However, for some reason, I felt the need to play
For the first time in decades, I played for myself. I played so hard that the rest of my fingertips were worn away. For the first time in a long time, I felt the passion for music that had been so long forgotten. Keys made a familiar sound of passion. Only now, had I felt the same love for Tchaikovsky as I did all those decades ago
Then, an unfamiliar feeling crept up on me. One that was odd but gave me a sense of relief. Sort of comforting like Vanya. That feeling was death. And as death enwreathed me, I welcomed it as if it was an old friend.