The man in the hat set his violin case down on the deserted street corner. The glow from a nearby streetlight illuminated him as he opened it and gently touched the pegs of the violin and tightened the bow strings. It was a strange instrument, as strange and striking as its owner. The body was made of a black wood and the strings glinted gold instead of silver. The man himself had long, long hair the color of the night sky, and in his navy suit coat he seemed to disappear into the darkness around him. He set the violin on his shoulder, touched the strings for a second or two, then placed the bow lightly down and let the first strains of a tune he’d heard in Hong Kong the night before echo down the street. He swayed to the music, the toe of his high top shoes tapping to the rhythm of the song. As the moon came out from behind a cloud, he switched to an old favorite of his from Buenos Aires, the rocking beat making him smile a cold, cold smile. After a while, he realized he had an onlooker, a creature in a long white dress with slits for nostrils, eyes, and mouth. “Madame Paralysie!” the man cried. “Fancy seeing you here!” “It’s Bayan Felci right now, thank you,” the creature snapped and, with a whirl of white skirts, skittered off on much more than two legs. The man smiled wider. “Spending a night or two in Istanbul?” he called after her, letting the notes of a tune inspired by long hours of skulking in the alleys of Ankara drift through the air. She’s always so tetchy, he thought with a chuckle. Not like the nightmarelings or the Bogey Brothers. He closed his eyes and let himself relax as he drew from the strings a melody from a ballet he’d seen in Prague. Maggie and Joy took a shortcut home through the park across from their dance studio. Night comes early in the fall, and even though it was only 8:30, the streetlights were on and the sun was long gone from the horizon. Maggie tapped a rhythm with her empty water bottle against her leg and imagined herself spinning and spinning in a fouette, Maria shouting out the counts. “Thursday is going to be the day we get it,” she mused out loud. “I just know it.” “Sure,” said Joy. “Like we haven’t been struggling for the past two weeks with- Wait.” She grabbed her friend’s arm. “Maggie. Do you hear that?” Both girls stood stock-still on the empty street, holding their breaths and listening to the echoing strains of a violin. “That’s from the ballet I was telling you about! The one that I couldn’t remember the name of!” As they turned the corner, they saw, far down the block, a man in a hat playing like his life depended on it. “Well, then, let’s go over to him!” Maggie said. “You can get the name from him when he’s done.” Joy hesitated, just for a split second, the emptiness of the street getting to her. Sure, it was dark and a weeknight and this part of the city always went to sleep early, but normally there were at least a few other people about. But the pull of the music drowned out that little suspicious voice and she followed Maggie to the man on the street corner. “I could start dancing right now,” Joy whispered, feeling slightly giddy. The man was a sight to see, his fingers flying along the strings, his bow darting up and down, and his entire body swaying to the music. “So let’s dance!” Maggie said, laughing. She grabbed Joy’s hands and her feet started moving, of their own accord, it seemed. When she glanced at the man, he was smiling, a small
smile, an almost predatory smile. Joy noticed it, too, but both girls thought they were imagining things so they said nothing. When the man picked up the pace, both of them felt their feet move faster. But they were so lost in the music, they didn’t notice it. They didn’t notice, either, that the man’s shadow was dancing, too, in long sinuous curves across the sidewalk toward them. The man’s smile grew until it seemed to fill his face with teeth. Some time later, when the moon had risen above the buildings to shine down on the street below, the man in the hat lifted his bow from the strings and took a long, deep breath. He set the violin back in its case and left the street corner, his high tops clicking on the cement, his hair blowing in an unseen wind. Another night or two in this city, then on to Nairobi or perhaps New York City. The Lord of Unnamed Fears had many things to do.
Artist Statement: I was inspired by a conversation that I had with my dance class around Halloween. We were talking about scary movies, books, and urban legends, so I decided to take some of those things and make a story about them.