Father Schuler was led down a dusty corridor by a nobleman and his wife, who were chattering incessantly. Schuler was young and short and stout; his hair was dark and shiny, and his mouth was small and pink. For all of these childish features, his countenance was notably arresting; his gaze bore the chilling scrutiny of an omniscient seraph. Few saw him for confession more than once, as the lightless, shale-colored eyes behind the confessional screen seemed to know sin before it was divulged, before it was committed. Schuler’s homilies persistently touched on the wickedness of man and the purifying power of suffering; the soft, scratchy voice was oft heard quoting Ecclesiastes and Jeremiah.
The man and woman sauntering ahead of him believed his Puritanical manner could disturb and dishearten the most heinous of Satan’s army; in fact, the Moores had called him to their mansion to do just so.
“She’s behind the door, Father,” said Mr. Moore, touching the crystal knob softly. “She unsettles most who see her. And smell her. And, ah, eventually hear her. Just be aware, Father.”
Father Schuler glanced to him, as if acknowledging an annoying sound, and then to the door. Mr. Moore opened it.
A window made up the back wall of the little room; it cast light from the stark sky onto the white carpet. The walls were white as well, and so they reflected the coldness about the room, making it shine whiter than newly erupted teeth or bones picked clean by scavengers. Schuler’s gaze, however, was focused on a stain in all the whiteness. Slouching on an ebony chair in the center of the room was a girl—eleven, perhaps—whose hair was tied back in a ribbon the color of hell. A stain on her dress over her abdomen seemed to indicate the source of the smell of decadence—or else it was her sordid mouth, which hung open, exposing a tongue that might have fallen out at any moment. Her eyes were turned back towards her cranium. Schuler remembered a pink face and lips like a glacé cherry; now her features were cinched in sharply, the color of turned milk. The girl caressed a full-sized violin and bow, both far too big for her. They shone maliciously, black like ink.
“Poor Lucille. What happened?” droned Schuler, itching the side of his nose.
Mr. Moore, blanched by the horrid sight, started stiffly out of the room. “Over tea, Father. Not here.”
Downstairs, Schuler and the Moores sipped oolong tea around a table a little small for three people. The Moores were sipping tea, that is. Schuler was watching steam fly from his cup, seemingly agitated with its disorderly escape.
Mrs. Moore, whose existence was spent maintaining the bastard offspring of an elitist grin and a panicked grimace on her face, gave a meaningful look to her fourth husband. Mr. Moore nodded to his fifth wife, took a conscious slurp from his cup, and set it down loudly. Schuler looked up, the remnants of a disapproving frown still on his face.
“Father, our—my Lucille died two months ago,” said Mr. Moore. “We’d called in a violin teacher, hoping to culture the little thing. The teacher was a wonderful violinist, really—she sounded the way silk feels, or the way glass looks! The perfect violinist. Yes! And little Lucille, you know, we hadn’t quite taught her to keep her hands to herself. And so enraptured was the dear thing with the music that, ah, she leapt up. And tried to snatch the violin away. But you know the strangest thing happened. Her heart seized up the moment she touched it! How about that! And we just couldn’t believe it, we were so surprised—and heartbroken of course—but we gathered ourselves and did the right thing. Sued the violin teacher, buried Lucy, got an obituary article. But then the little one surprised us again! A few weeks later, she chewed her way out of the coffin and out of the earth and came home to reclaim her precious violin. And ever since then, she’s had her little ritual every night. Makes it hard to sleep for her brothers and sisters.
“We haven’t bothered calling the doctors or the police because of, you know, legal matters and such. It’s plain to see that something supernatural is going on! That’s why we’ve called you—so this demon or spirit or whatever it is will let Lucille—and us!—rest.”
“A ritual.” Father Schuler stared over his cup. “She plays her violin every night. Why don’t you take it away?”
“Oh, Lucy doesn’t like that,” Mrs. Moore tittered. “Just ask our son Matthias! He tried to solve the issue himself, and...haha! She doesn’t like it!”
“It’s easier to understand if you see it yourself,” Mr. Moore added. “Come, Father, it’s about time for the performance.”
Seeing his tea had lost its lively warmth and was now the temperature of the old manor, Schuler downed it with relish and followed the couple back upstairs.
Now the couple lit a few candles in Lucille’s room to ward off the inky darkness that had settled in. The girl looked more alive now, but not better; her jaw was clenched tightly, her hands strangled the violin’s neck, and her eyes had reappeared from the darkness of her skull. They looked as though they perceived an imminent grisly death. The Moores stood with Schuler in front of the door, mouths smiling and twitching eyes wide open.
Now, at around 9:37, Lucille became very animated. She clacked her fingers together rapidly, as well as her teeth, and whipped her hell-bound hair around violently. She struck the violin’s body with the bow; Schuler realized that there must have been something inside, something like glass beads, which rattled around with every strike. Lucille stood, stomping, throwing back her head so that the crevasses of her trachea became visible, and raising her instrument to the sky. Then she jammed it under her chin, leapt onto the chair, and poised her bow with mechanical precision.