The evening bell tolled. A single note resonated through the empty town square. Behind heavy clouds hid a full moon. The cobblestones were slick from a passing rain, and water rested within the cracks of stone.
In the still night, a man strode into the English hamlet. A long, leather coat slid across the wet stones. Heavy boots struck the ground with a pounding rhythm. His large brimmed hat hung low and soaked with rain. Over each shoulder and around his waist were thick leather straps. They were worn and creaked at their buckles with each step. Attached to them, resting at his protruding belly, was a large box. From its left side gleamed a brass crank.
The silent figure stopped in front of the church bell tower and waited.
A door flung wide from a Pub not a block from the church. Raucous laughter, cheering, jeering, and soft orange light followed a staggering drunk into the street. The thick wooden door slammed shut behind him, cutting him off in an instant. “And a good night to you too,” he addressed to no one. His eyes were bloodshot and his bulbous nose was red from drink.
Home was not far, his mind told him. Just a quick jaunt through the square and then two lefts. Putting one shaky foot in front of the other, he made his way through the winding streets. Entering into the square he saw a gentleman, alone, staring straight ahead. Attached to him, a large box. Very strange for a person to be out alone. Could be dangerous. Perhaps the man needed help.
“Ho! What bringsh a man out tonight?”
The stranger did not answer.
“I shay good man. Shpeak. Or I may be forshed to call a guard, eh?”
Without preamble, the stranger turned the crank. At first the mechanical clunk of gears turning echoed inside the box, followed by the deep tones of a dissonant dirge. With his other hand, the silent figure lifted the top of the box. Sad, wailing voices were freed from within. They shimmered white and grey like fireflies caught in a fog. The voices poured out in thick plumes and settled on the ground.
“Black Magic,” the Drunk slurred. Fright, played on his words.
From the roiling smoke featureless figures rose up, their bodies one with the cloud. They turned to face the frightened man.
“Shtay away! I have nothing!”
They reached out swirling arms. Smoke parted where mouths should be and the muffled wails of a thousand mourners escaped. Gliding toward the drunk, they inhaled.
“I have noooo…ttt..hhhhhiiinnnnng…” As they inhaled, the drunk’s very voice was drawn from his body. It sailed through open air and turned into a cry of despair. It joined the others in perfect unison. The Drunk fell to his knees, his hands clasping his throat. Mouth agape, he fought to cry out for help.
The organ crank stopped and with a rush of wind the creatures of smoke and wailing voices were sucked back inside. The box lid slammed shut. The silent figure tipped his hat in thanks then walked from the square. His chorus, was nearly complete.