THE PIANO ROOM

Ad Blocker Detected

Our website is made possible by displaying online advertisements to our visitors. Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker.

By: Alma S. Anonas

It was  a muggy  day in March when five  friends decided to eat lunch  behind their school’s music building.  There were  shade trees and a closed-off stairway and disused   entrance that would  provide privacy,  comfortable seating,  and a good  surface for eating.  As they sat chatting  and exchanging banter over their  lunch boxes, the  five heard the  haunting  strains of a  Chopin lullaby  drift out through an open  window.   Curious  about who would  be playing  music  during the lunch hour,  the friends went around  to the building’s other entrance to investigate.  This school was an old age, one that had survived the ravages of the  Japanese Occupation  of World War II and  the carpet-bombing of Manila that heralded the end of  foreign occupation.  Ghost stories were rife here  and the friends  were eager ghost-hunters, though they had not yet really “caught”  any ghost as a group. As they walked on the old, yellowed tile of  the music  building’s  hallway, they approached  the piano  rooms  where the school’s nuns gave  piano  lessons to students.  This was  one of the oldest structures in the  school and had  vaulted  ceilings  that were prone  to dust  and cobwebs. The  music was coming  from the  room at the very  end  of the hallway,  some even rooms down. “Funny,” one of the friends, the tall  one,  commented, “isn’t  that the piano room that has been  locked  for  ages?”  The door was old,  with an old-fashioned keyhole lock  beneath  the rusty, dust-coated knob.  The wood was dry  and the dark  brown paint  was peeling in  places.  The door’s glass window  was obscured  by many decades’ worth of grime. The others looked  askance  at their  tall friend  and the  curly-haired one scoffed: “You just want  to scare  us. Maybe  they unlocked  the room and put  the piano to use.  It can’t all be about  ghosts, you  know.”

“Let’s go and see who’s right, then,” the chubby one piped in. “Or are you all too  chicken to find out?”

The remaining two,  one skinny and another who had  freckles,  silently led the way to the dusty door at the end  of the hall. Beside  the  door,  leaning on the wall was an old cello bereft  of strings and laced  with  cobwebs.

Gingerly, the chubby girl touched  the doorknob. “It’s cold,”  she said,  pulling her hand away.  The freckled  girl laughed  and said,  “You’re just trying to scares us,” before  twisting the knob. The door creaked  open the music , thought it was composed  as a lullaby,  came thundering out in a crescendo. The room was shadowy and dark at the far corners though it was just past noon. The  air was musty and the piano room’s only  window looked as if it was rusted shut. The piano was an old upright, the antique  kind that  had  candleholders  flanking  the copyholder where music sheets are placed.  The room smelled fusty- of melted candlewax  and the  dust of years.  Chubby gathered  her courage and walked in first, moving  towards  the upright piano on her right. The other four hung back,  leaning against the doorjamb, not looking, not admitting  that  they were, indeed, quite chicken. They heard  a chocked -off  yell and a thud.  Peering inside, Skinny saw  Chubby lying on  the floor beside  the piano. “Okay, who’s  going in to get  her?”

The music  kept playing,  sounding  more and more like a funeral  dirge now than a lullaby.  No answer, but there was a scratching , like a  chalk against  a blackboard.  “The music is definitely  coming from  the piano,” Freckles  said. “But  I don’t see anyone playing it.  Maybe  you and I could  drag Chubby out?”  She turned  to her skinny friend   and cocked  an eyebrow in a silent dare.  Skinny shrugged  and took  the gauntlet: “Sure. But I’m  closing my  eyes,  because,  whatever chubby saw, it made her  faint and you don’t wanna  have to drag me out, too, do you?” Freckles nodded in agreement,  adding  the taunt, “chicken, bok-bok-bok,” as a  friendly barb.  Frenckles  and Skinny went in and Skinny kept her eyes on chubby and,  after  grabbing Chubby  by the feet,  shut her eyes as she  started  dragging her friend  out backwards. Freckles  looked up  to her left as  she stooped to get a hold  of Chubby, looking  towards the source  of the  scratching  sound, screamed, then  promptly  fainted.  Skinny,  sighed, wondering  what on earth her friend had seen and, careful  not to look  anywhere  but at her  unconscious  friends, she dragged  both  out  with much difficulty. Keep  your eyes  on the patterned tile floor,  Skinny kept telling herself. Just stare at the floor.

Once out of the  room,  the other  two,  Beanpole  and  Curlylocks,  assisted  Skinny. “What happened in there?” Beanpole asked, while  Curlylocks nodded  her concurrence with the question.

“I don’t know,” Skinny said.  “I’ll go and take a look. I’m more  curious  than  scare now. ”

In went Skinny,  looking  first at the piano  on her right,  then turning  to the  blackboard by the window on her left. Skinny saw translucent white hands playing the piano,  the veins  on the hands  standing  out with the effort and strain . There was  nothing  but those  hands,  severed  above  the wrist , hanging  in the air and playing  Chopin.  As she  watched  the hands  play the sonata, overwhelming  fear, sadness , and rage  filled her  and she left  like she was going  to throw  up.  Skinny covered  her mouth and pushed  down the  bile.  Then she  looked  to her left,  in the direction of the sound of chalk scraping  against  the old blackboard. Feeling  as if her  feet were  encased in lead,   Skinny walked forward and faced  the blackboard. A piece of new chalk was  scratching  the faded  green slate, writing on the words: “Help me. Pray for me. ” The  words were written over and over, as if the  writer was  doing  after-school punishment from beyond  the grave. Holding  the chalk was another white, disembodied  hand.  This time  it dripped blood  onto a  growing  pool on the floor.  Skinny slowly  walked out  of the piano room, fighting the emotions tearing through her and  the chill air in the room.  She called to her friends,  who seemed  miles away and began to sway  into a swoon.  She put  her  left hand  on top of the piano  to steady herself  and felt something  like beads under her hand.  There had  been nothing  on the piano  when I went in, she thought as her hands  clutched  the beads  of a wooden  rosary.  Almost  at the door,  Skinny  started losing consciousness and her  friends, including the two  had been revived from their  own faints,  caught her as she fell.  Curlylocks brought out her  first-aid kit,  which  she never  went  anywhere without,  and opened a small  bottle  of ammonia and put it  under  Skinny’s nose. Revived, Skinny looked at the rosary in her hand.  “I think this belongs to someone,” she said. “Maybe we should  bring it to the lost and found.” “There’s no time now,” Beanpole said. “The class bell rang about ten minutes ago.  We have  to go to class. Let’s talk about this later.” The  friends agreed to meet at their  spot at the school  gate after class and  went to their classrooms.  When the  five went to the lost and found area of the gate, they were  told to go to the nun’s house, as the wooden rosary was similar to those  the nuns hung on their habits’ belts. They proceeded to the priory,  where  an old German nun answered the door and received the rosary. The nun  examined the rosary closely and her face went very pale as she turned  the cross over.  “Who gave you this story?” the nun asked  the five. The friends  told  the nun  their strangle tale,  including how Skinny found the rosary on top  of the piano. The nun showed  the friends  the initial. “MJ” carved on the  back of the cross. “Those  are the initials of Sister Mary Joseph, whose classroom you entered. It was sealed  up after  she died  because people  felt cold, angry, and  very sad whenever they went in there.”

The nun shook her head and crossed herself. “Sister Mary Joseph died during the Japanese Occupation. She used to be a very talented  piano  teacher and her hands  were cut  off as punishment  after she  lost her  temper and slapped  a Japanese soldier who hurt one  of the other nuns.  She died of blood  loss because the soldiers would not allow anyone to  give her treatment and today is her death anniversary.”

Beanpole,  Chubby,  Skinny,  Freckles, and Curlylocks left the priory and could  have sworn that, as they walked to the school  gate with the  summer  sunset at their backs, they heard the  faintest strummings of a  Chopin sonata.

Leave a Reply