Gio woke up in an empty piano bar but the sounds of Gaspard de la nuit still rang in his ears alongside the horrible aftermath of a pleasant buzz. He groaned and leaned forward over the table with his right hand over his forehead.
The room was black. Lines of sunlight peeked past the thick, velvet, red curtains draped across eight rounded windows, each large like the arches of a church. Little café tables littered the room until they stopped at a stage where a quiet black Grand piano watched over like the statue of an old Chinese tiānzǐ. In the corner of the room, a man in a penguin suit stood equally still, his eyes the loudest thing about him.
From across the way, a chair scooted back and the sound echoed like gravel against the melodies that ghosted the place. Gio had stood up, although he still swum in the air like his shoulders were unequally weighted. He asked his man in the penguin suit, Berto, to fetch him a glass of water and so he became alone in the piano bar. He waded through the chairs and made his way to the stage, where he leaned on the black tile and dropped his head to his forearms. This room was the empty skin shed by a snake. The life had abandoned it, and now it was only a carcass. It was unequivocally appropriate that Gio should be the only one left in it. Besides Berto, naturally, whose life was far emptier than Gio could ever fathom his own to be. Berto returned with a crystal wine glass of water, and Gio habitually sniffed it before taking a sip.
“Thanks, Berto.” Gio returned the glass to the serving tray Berto held in one hand. “Go on, now, I long to be alone.”
Berto bowed his head briefly before gliding out of the room. Gio heaved himself onstage and sat down at the piano where he pretended to play and hummed the would-be melody to himself.
Last night he played. Jazz, of course, nothing dark or twisted to scare away his guests. He recalled seeing their faces cascaded in the colored lighting. Everyone so merry. Swinging and cheering and drinking. That pretty number in the blue dress, her black skin smooth and perfect and warm. Gio invited another pianist from his staff to play, and he stepped down to take her hand in dance. She whispered her words like violent sex. She’d known abuse. Gio could smell it in her sweat.
And now she was gone and Gio was humming and he could still taste the wine she drank on the skin of his lips. He kind of missed her, almost, and as he sat there musing himself through melancholy, he wondered if his addiction to emotion was what prompted him to throw these parties every week. He didn’t have many faults, so he fancied he might have this one. It was a good fault to have, for Gio, and he wouldn’t try to fix it.
They had danced deep into the night, and then once and suddenly a different pianist took the stage when Gio waved him over. Then the Jazz was gone, and the patrons were each gently escorted out of the premises. All except for the pretty number in the blue dress. They danced together to slow classical pieces.
“This is my favorite.” Gio told her with his lips pressed against the heartbeat in her neck when Gaspard de la nuit played.
“I’ve never heard it.” She said.
“You’ll never hear it again.” He promised her.
And they continued to dance while Gio felt her brain formulate the meaning of his statement. They continued to dance as her pulse sped up and her brow came closer together. They continued to dance even after she had come to the realization that she had walked easily into the jaws of a monster. Like boiling frogs.
And now it was too late, and so she stopped dancing but she didn’t run. She just froze, and when Gio pulled away from her he could see that her hot blood had grown hard and terrified. The pianist played flawlessly and fast. So fast it was like each key shot into the thick sky like a bullet into flesh and they would linger there until Gio pulled his chair out the following morning.
Gio stopped pretend-playing the piano and sat back, satisfied. He closed his eyes and remembered his first drink that night, as he pulled her hair back and mauled into her veins. The guttural roar of his thirst purring under the hectic melodies as she laid in his arms lame and motionless. The memory of her blood left him satisfied.