- 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
The Red Piano
- 25 Aug - 31 Aug, 2018
I noted the cell number on my phone and saved it.
We talked a bit until I told him that I wanted to sleep. He went to his room and I went to mine. As soon as Raheel shut his room’s door, I picked up my wallet and kept it in my pocket, then held my phone and began to walk slowly towards the main gate and, stepped outside without making any noise. Within few minutes, I left my friend’s home.
Next afternoon, while walking on a footpath I called up the apartment’s owner for the second time, for it was powered off earlier. I was so desperate and worried. What if he didn’t answer my phone? I wondered. I had to find a place to stay. And I couldn’t take a risk. Anyway, I went to a restaurant nearby and had lunch. I had almost finished eating when I heard my phone ring. I was anticipating the apartment’s owner to call me, despite knowing that it was impossible. I looked at my phone and saw Raheel’s name flashing on the screen. I ignored his call and continued eating.
After I had paid for the lunch and stepped out of the restaurant, I called the apartment’s owner again. This time the number was powered on and the bell was ringing. I felt excited, as he finally answered my call, “Hello?”
“Sir, this is Amir Lalani, you don’t know me but I’m Raheel’s friend. I was actually looking for an apartment and was told that you have one.”
“Oh I see. Well, yes there is one but it’s a absolutely vacant.”
“You mean there’s no furniture?”
“No, except for one thing. Anyway, if you can bring your own furniture then I have no problem giving you the apartment’s keys.”
“Well, I don’t have any but I
can arrange. How much will
“Charge? You mean how much rent?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m asking. However, the cost is not an issue.”
“Well, the rent is Rs. 30,000 per month. If you can give me the amount in cash, that’ll be great.”
“Done! No problem,” I replied spontaneously. “I’ll arrange the cash.”
“Can you meet me within an hour? There’s something I have to warn you about.”
“Regarding the house?”
“Yes, can we meet today?”
“Sure, just text me the address and I’ll be there within few minutes.”
Few hours later, I was seated inside the apartment’s guest room. The owner was seated on a sofa across me. He repeated what I just told him, “So let me get it straight, your plane landed here but your luggage is still not here. And it’ll take a little time for them to get it here?”
“And secondly, you don’t have a place to stay but you have enough money to rent an apartment?”
“That’s right, and I want a quiet and lonely place.”
“May I ask why?” he enquired.
I chuckled courteously.
“Should I be concerned?” he said looking at me with concern.
“Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be worried about.”
“Ok, so before handing you over keys to the apartment, I must give you some instructions. Those instructions are more of a warning, if you know what I mean.”
“Ok, I’m listening. But before you begin, you must know that I won’t change my mind about living in a vacant apartment that had bad consequences in the past.”
“Well, I suppose Raheel has tried to warn you before about what I’m about to tell you?”
“That’s right,” I replied. “Anyway, go on please.”
“There’s a red piano in the central room. It is a grand one. I’ve kept it at the corner of the room and there’s a chair next to it. It might appear attractive but I got to warn you that it’s a dangerous item.”
“Dangerous?” I asked him in a sarcastic tone.
“Yes,” he replied quite seriously. “My tenants, all of them became serial killers after they went close to that piano. They were normal people; in fact, they were quite kind-hearted. But after they touched that piano and played it for a while, they became murderers. Believe it or not, but this is the truth.”
I got to tell you. I wanted to hit this guy as much as I could on his face. The kind of rubbish that he was telling me, I just couldn’t bear it and wanted to beat the hell out of him. But at this moment I had to bear it and get the apartment’s keys from him which is why I listened to him patiently.
“So, all I can do right now is to warn you and suggest you to find someplace else to stay. If there’s no other option, then you can have the apartment’s keys. If you go near the piano and play it just for once, then you’ll want to play it more and if you’ll continue playing it then it’ll become an addiction.”
“May I say something?” I interrupted him. “I, sir, have never played any piano in my entire life. I don’t know how to play it and neither am I interested in any kind of musical instrument.”
“That’s one thing, but the piano in my apartment is not ordinary. It’s something you’d like to sit closer to and…”
“Let me tell you sir,” I interrupted him again, all while controlling my temper. “I have no interest in music at all. Music is a waste of time according to me. No offence, but your musical instrument means nothing more than a piece of…” I stopped right there, for it would have been inappropriate for me to continue speaking. After a brief pause, I said, “Sorry. Look sir, you have nothing to worry about from my side. You’ll get the rent on time and it’s probably about one month only; in fact, you can have the entire cash in advance.”
He didn’t know what to say so he remained silent. I asked him, “When can I get the keys? I’ll hand over the entire cash on spot.”
“The key is here with me. I don’t need the cash in advance. All I want from you is to stay away from the red piano.”
He stood up and walked outside. After a whole one minute he came holding a set of two keys in his hands and said, “Let me give you the address.”
Several hours later, I stood outside the apartment and held a triple folded mattress that I had just purchased. The keys of the apartment were in my hand and I looked at the door white coloured door.
The house must be quite messed up. There must be dust and spider webs everywhere. I must be mentally prepared for it. I told myself that I shall clean the house entirely except for the piano. The piano must remain the way it is.
So I unlocked the house, and as I entered inside and turned on the lights, I was amazed to see that the house was entirely clean; and by clean I mean there was not a single spot of dust as far as my eyes could see.
I kept the mattress inside and shut the door. I looked at the white house. Everything seemed white as if it was painted recently. I kept on looking around and enjoyed the view until my eyes saw the red grand piano. I got to admit, I was kind of startled. Why wouldn’t I be? People had been warning me about it, as if it was a dangerous wild animal. I kept looking at it. It was red like blood and was shining too. The piano looked imported and expensive.
I walked towards it until an alarm rang inside my head and I stopped. I shouldn’t go near it. That’s what I was told.
Fine! I won’t go near it. Don’t even want to. I wondered.
I turned around and started walking towards another room until I heard a voice, “Or do you?”
I turned around to see who just spoke. It was actually a voice from my own thoughts but the emptiness of the house made me feel as if someone else said those words. I ignored and kept walking towards another room. It was big and clean, so I decided to sleep there. A sliding door that led to the balcony was made of glass.
It would be comfortable here. I thought.
For an entire day, I didn’t go near the piano. I ordered my favourite food from a nearby restaurant and tried keeping myself from getting bored by listening to the radio on my cell phone, as I lay on my mattress. Other than this, I exercised a lot in order to get myself tired and eventually fall asleep.
The second day, I did the same. It wasn’t really helpful the second time though, for I was getting bored and needed something else to entertain myself. That day, my cell phone began to ring and as expected, it was Raheel’s call.
I ignored his call and didn’t answer. Was I feeling guilty? I don’t know and I shouldn’t care, probably.
The third day as I woke up, I got frustrated realising that another boring day had just begun. What to do? How should I pass my time? There is nothing here that could entertain me. I had last night’s leftover food for breakfast. This was my life in this apartment – dull and colourless.
I did what I shouldn’t have done but I still went on with it. Finally, I walked towards the piano and stood close to it. For one minute, I felt entertained enough, for I was seeing something so beautiful in front of my eyes. I bent and slightly touched its keys until the owner’s voice echoed in my head: “My tenants, all of them became serial killers after they went close to that piano. They were normal people; in fact, they were quite kind-hearted. But after they touched that piano and played it for a while, they became murderers. Believe it or not, but this is the truth.”
Feeling shaken, I closed my eyes and stood up, but the beautiful instrument was still there. This time as I tried to touch it, I heard the voice again: “If you go near the piano and play it just for once, then you’ll want to play it more and if you’ll continue playing it then it’ll become an addiction.”
I asked myself. How can I buy this stuff? How can a person like me believe in the superstition disseminated by people?
I got annoyed and walked away.
Two more days went by.
I got angrier as time passed by. I had nothing to do in the house. But things got worse when I got a call from the airline. They told me that it would take one more week for me to receive my luggage in Karachi. I have no words to describe how angry I got.
I held my phone tightly and threw it as hard as I could towards the wall. The wall that was close to the piano. It led my eyes towards the dangerous instrument. I’m sorry to tell you this but now I had a reason. I was tempted and had to go near the piano and play it.
I sat on the chair and wondered. I am not superstitious like my landlord. I know myself; nothing can make me a killer.
But I was wrong. The piano actually did make me a cold-blooded murderer.
I sat next to the piano and looked at its magnificence. It wasn’t antique but that was the only word that came to my mind as I placed my eyes on it. I hesitantly touched its keys. At first I just enjoyed the smoothness of the instrument. While enjoying the moment, I unintentionally pressed a couple of keys.
There was a sound. It was something I’d never heard before. The music of the keys was so amusing and soul soothing that I craved to hear more. So I continued playing further. And the sound that produced like waves of water were so mesmerising that I got lost in the music. Music was everywhere. I couldn’t stop my fingers as every key was like a spice that added more taste to the food. For a moment I had forgotten all that I was going through earlier. My luggage issue, my dull life and all other issues were of no concern to me in that moment.
The music echoed in my mind and it activated my sense. At least I felt that way. My fingers kept moving faster. My eyes were open for a long and they got teary. I paused for a few seconds. This was when I felt really uncomfortable, so I hit the piano’s keys with both my hands and continued playing whatever I could. It was all happening so spontaneously. Maybe it wasn’t in my control. Somebody should have stopped me.
I lost track of time and got so involved that three hours went by in a jiffy and I kept playing the piano. The tunes had gotten inside my mind so badly that every moment I took a pause, I heard the music in my head and my mind wanted more of it.
It was the first time ever that I was playing a musical instrument and it had me at the first attempt. I don’t know what exactly happened. I either felt overdosed or my hands got tired. I finally let go. I gave up the piano and stood up. There was no clock on the wall for me to keep a check on time and my cell phone had broken, after which I had no clue of what the time was. I felt really thirsty and went towards the kitchen to drink water from the cooler I had recently purchased.
to be continued...