The first chapter for my latest work in progress. A pure first draft, but would love some thoughts on how it feels for a reader.
There’s classical music playing. This is Robert Landry’s first thought as his senses come back to him, thoughts appearing as if from nowhere, penetrating through the mental haze. Everything is dark, his vision not yet returning, but his ears key in on the sound, which at first seems faraway but then drifts closer.
Piano, he thinks. Someone is playing piano, and they’re damn good. He sees it in his mind, a pair of hands elegantly dancing over the keys, their touch soft but effective, producing the notes in perfect rhythm. Robert almost feels himself swaying to the tune.
Then his cognition fully reboots.
Where am I?
He didn’t remember what had happened or why he was sitting down. He was going home, wasn’t he? He had put his keys in the door and opened it, stepped inside then…
And now, classical music.
His head aches, and he feels the pain pulsating from the crown of his skull. He tries to move and finds he can’t; his arms are strapped down, as well as his legs and body. He’s tied to a chair, or something similar.
What the hell? he thinks, fear finally arriving to the party. He’d been too incoherent to understand the gravity of the situation before, but now the possibilities were coming back to him.
Robert opens his eyes.
The beauty of the room before him is the first thing to catch his attention, a regal sort of elegance infused into the foyer. The floors are shiny, perhaps marble, and are a decorative royal pattern. There are two large antique mirrors on either side of the far wall, followed by a series of paintings, classical portraits and baroque market scenes. A crimson red berber carpet directs his eyes to the staircase to his right, where it ascends the stairs and guides any potential visitors to the second floor.
The music stops playing.
Robert looks towards the grand piano, where a figure is seated, wearing a fine suit. The mystery man stands up and speaks in a voice that is silky smooth, but void of emotion.
“Your hands are dirty, Robert,” the man says.
Robert looks down. He’s strapped to a heavy chair by a series of belts. He gazes at his hands.
Only to find they aren’t there.
Robert stares in disbelief at the area where his hands once were. Instead, his arms each came to a stump, which had been stitched shut. While unconscious, this maniac had removed his hands.
“Oh my god!” he screams.
“That was Rachmaninoff’s Number 2 in C Minor, in case you were wondering,” the man says. “Pardon me taking liberties with my interpretation, I must admit I rarely play pieces exactly as they are written.”
“Holy shit!” Robert screams. “Where are my hands? You took my hands!” he thrashes in his restraints, rocking the heavy chair back and forth, spittle pouring down his chin as he approaches hysterics.
“Relax, Robert,” the man assures, his voice not rising a single decibel.” He reaches inside either side of his coat and pulls out two objects as he approaches. Thrashing his head side to side, Robert cannot recognize what they are until the man is nearly upon him.
The man tosses the two items into Robert’s lap. A scream rises but gets caught in his throat. Suddenly, he cannot breathe.
His hands. The man had casually tossed them into his lap. The wounds where they had been severed from his arms were sewn shut, and the psychopath had not been lying; Robert’s fingernails were shiny and grime free, even underneath. His skin looked soft and supple, and he even smelled a trace of hand cream rubbed into his skin .
What used to be his skin.
Robert lets out a cry and bucked his hips upward, throwing the hands from his body. Tears pour down his face and combine with his slobber, dripping down and staining his clothes. “Help! Someone help me!” he bellows, throwing his body as hard as he could each direction.
“No, no, no,” the man says in the tone of a patient parent as he places a butterfly knife to Robert’s throat. “If you cannot behave yourself, we’ll have to make this encounter short.”
Robert muffles his cry, tensing up. The man is close, looming over him, and for the first time Robert looks at his face.
His eyes, Robert thinks. He couldn’t think of a way to describe him. They are blue, icy blue, but so pale in color it was as if they didn’t exist at all. They are pale, faraway, detached, yet in the moment, so intently focused on him.
“Wh-what do you want?” Robert croaks. “Please, let me go. I won’t tell anyone about this.”
The man laughs. It has the vocal quality of a laugh but lacked the human element, any trace of sincere humor or joy. It is like what a robot would produce to imitate what a laugh sounded like.
“Detective Landry, this was about you and your dirty hands. I didn’t mean literally of course, but in the metaphorical sense. Taking bribes to misplace evidence? Selling drugs that had been confiscated to make your own side profit? Rather audacious of someone who is supposed to protect and serve the public.”
“I’ll stop!” Robert gasps. “That’s all it is? I’ll stop. Hell, I’ll give you the profits. I’ll give you any amount of money you want!”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” the man says, shaking his head. The blade digs into Robert’s flesh just slightly, causing him to reduce his breathing. His heart threatens to pound out of his chest. “This isn’t about money, Detective Landry, this is about principle! What gave you the right to act in such a manner, to be above the laws you so enforce on others? Do you think your job gives you that sort of power?”
“What?” Robert asks. “No, I just…I just needed more money.”
“Needed?” the man asks, grinding the blade into Robert’s skin deeper. A trickle of blood zig-zags its way down his neck.
“Wanted!” Robert gasps. “I guess I wanted it.”
The man is shaking his head again. “You acted as if there would be no repercussions. As if you had an inherent right to. I’m not here to make you change your ways, detective, and I’m not here for a cut of your money.”
“Wh-what are you here for?” Robert asks, meekly.
The man smiles, and despite how straight and perfectly white it is, it’s the most horrifying thing Robert has ever seen. The plastic smile, the predatorial grin, sends icy daggers plunging into his heart, and chills radiating throughout his body.
“Call me an agent of truth,” the man explains, with a cold, vindictive sort of pleasure. “Call me the shatterer of illusions. You see, Detective Landry, your actions were so brazen because you thought you had power, you thought you had control. I’m here to show you that there’s really only one type of power in the world.”
“What do you…” Robert began before letting out a wet choke.
The man dragged the blade across Robert’s throat, slitting it and letting his blood gush out at a torrential rate. Robert’s head fell forward and the world began turning dark again. He spit up blood and began shaking violently, and just before his world faded away for good, he processed one last thing.
The man had started playing the piano again.