by Lamont Turner

Hal Spencer stared at his hand and scowled. He spread it out on the table, took the cleaver in his other hand, and brought it down on his wrist. He passed out immediately. 

“What do you make of it, Doc?” Maggie Taft, a reporter for the Enquirer asked, watching the orderly adjust the straps securing Spencer to his bed.

“Hard to tell,” Doctor Richmond responded, prodding Hal’s stump with the tip of his pen. “We’ve had to keep him sedated since they brought him in.”

“It isn’t everyday a famous guitarist hacks off his own hand,” Maggie said. “Think he was high?”

“The toxicology report says he wasn’t,” Richmond said, scribbling something on his clipboard. “Although he did have that reputation. It’s possible the years of self-abuse caught up with him. That kind of life style can have long term effects. He went on and on about some old bluesman who’d sold him a guitar, and how a ghost had seeped from the strings into his hand.”

“Whistling Bill Toombs,” Spenser groaned. “I cheated him on the guitar. He died and came back to punish me.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Spencer. I didn’t realize you were awake,” Richmond said, nodding at the door to signal the orderly to get a nurse. “We’re going to have to up your medication.”

“I’m fine now,” Spenser rasped. “It’s all over. He can’t make me play those chords anymore.”

“I understand you believe you were possessed by some kind of spirit,” the reporter said, earning a dirty look from Richmond.

“Haunted!” Spenser shouted, straining against the straps. “At first it was in the guitar, making me play his damn songs! Then, after I smashed the cursed thing, the ghost jumped into my hand. After that it was the same no matter what guitar I played!”

“What kind of songs?” Maggie asked as a nurse appeared, to nudge her away from the bed.

“It was his songs—only they were weird, like he’d added to them after spending some time in hell. It scared me to hear what I was playing, but I couldn’t resist. I had to play!”

The nurse loosened the restraints to adjust Spenser’s I.V. while Richmond went out into the hall to signal the orderly to return in case there was any trouble. 

“What did the music sound like?” Maggie asked from the corner she’d been pushed into. 

“It was horrible, like the screams of the damned!” Spencer said. “I can almost hear them now…” He suddenly blanched, his remaining hand clutching the rail of his bed.

“Calm down, Mr. Spencer,” the nurse said, laying a hand on his chest. He didn’t seem to hear her.

“My God! I can still hear it,” he whispered, staring up at the nurse as if looking for confirmation. “I didn’t get rid of him. He’s in my head now.”

Before the orderly could make it across the room, Spenser had slipped his restraints, pushed the nurse aside, and hurled himself through the glass of the window. 

“What have you done?” the doctor shouted at the reporter as they both stared through the broken pane at the body crumpled on the street below. 

“I wanted to see how he’d react,” Maggie said, trying to silence the blues riff coming from her phone. “I never imagined he’d be able to move so fast.”

She had to tap on the screen of her phone several times before the music stopped, just as the sound of the guitar was replaced by harsh, taunting laughter.

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