Don’t you hear that violin?
These are the events that befell a former classmate and friend, Alonzo, in the summer of 1925.
We were American history majors in college. Due to this shared interest, Alonzo suggested going to America on vacation. I readily agreed, for I had always wanted to go there myself, and arranged the trip through the family shipping business. On our second day in that country, he told me that he desired to visit a cemetery.
As we were strolling within the compounds, I asked, “Tell me Alonzo, why are we here walking among the dearly departed in this foreign land?”
“It’s because of something my grandfather told me when I was a boy. A dark episode in our family history.” He shrugged. “I guess, Anthony, if you dig deep enough, every family has one.”
I waited politely before encouraging, “Yes, go on.”
My friend sighed. “Well, there were two brothers. Both were newly arrived immigrants here. Adventurous, bold, and handsome, I was told.”
I smiled. “You seemed to have inherited those traits.”
Alonzo laughed. “I’m not so sure about that, Anthony. Anyway, to make a long story short. The older brother killed the younger one over a woman.”
“My God, what happened to the older brother? Did he pay for his crime?”
Alonzo shook his head. “Apparently not, for I wouldn’t exist if he had. I’m a direct descendent. He claimed his brother pulled out his sword first. Furthermore, there were many witnesses, for it took place on the main street of this town.”
We walked into the oldest part of the cemetery when Alonzo cried out, “There I’ve found it.” He pointed to a weed encircled gravestone shaped like a tablet.
This discovery made him speechless. The inscription was barely legible. I read it out loud. “Here lies my brother, Alonzo Zalermo, who met an untimely death at a moment of jealous passion. May he rest in peace. Born May 19, 1707. Died June 13, 1725.”
When I finished, my friend murmured, “I have his name.”
At that moment, the ground shook as in an earthquake. We stood there apprehensive, for we knew the destruction one could cause, but soon it abated and I let out a long breath of relief. When I glanced at my friend, however, I noticed his face was pale. I asked, half in jest, “Are you alright?”
“Anthony, do you hear a violin playing an eerie tune?”
I tilted my head. “No, nothing, Alonzo.”
“It’s something from an opera. I can’t say which one.”
I offered an explanation, “Perhaps, someone in one of the nearby homes was practicing.”
Alonzo shrugged, “It’s gone now. But, I’m certain I heard it.”
“I don’t doubt you, Alonzo.”
We left and did a bit of sightseeing in the city before returning to our hotel for dinner. We sat at a table and chatted about the day until our food was put on the table. Just as he was chewing on his first mouthful, he dropped his fork.
Alarmed, I stood, for it appeared he was choking, but before I could go to his aid, he swallowed and gasped, “Sorry, Anthony, it’s that violin again. You must be able to hear it, too.”
Apparently, realizing from my silence that he alone was hearing the dreadful notes, his face became deathly white.
“Alonzo, you need to relax and forget everything about this morning. Let’s retire to our room and...”
Alonzo leaned across the table. “You must be hearing that music. Stop pretending your not!”
His outburst shocked every diner to silence. They stared until they realized the rudeness of their intrusion.
Embarrassed, he cast he eyes down. “I apologize, Anthony. It’s just that I’ve been hearing that violin all day.”
“You should have told me sooner. I’ll help you forget that music.”
My friend found no rest that night. Chess nor cards distracted his mind. Phonograph nor records banished the relentless music. In vain, I tried to stir interest in conversation until I must have fallen asleep, for when I was shaken awake the sun was shining.
“Anthony wake up. I can no longer endure this music. Please assist me in finding a liner back to the continent.”
Our agent was called. A freighter was found docked and ready for departure. The only cabin available was near the engine room. Though warned it would be noisy, Alonzo begged me to take it.
With haste we boarded the steamer, and as we watched the coast diminish, Alonzo said, “The music is weakening.”
“That is good news, my friend. You need to rest.”
That evening we ordered dinner served in our room. The aroma from the food increased our appetite. It was our first satisfying meal since my friend’s affliction, and soon, I doused off.
I was jolted awake by a piercing scream. Alonzo was sitting in the armchair with a hand over each ear.
I cried out, “What is it?”
“I can see him playing the violin! He’s leering at me.”
I dashed to the door and opened it. “There’s no one, Alonzo.”
Later that day, I had a telegram sent. On our arrival we were met by his family. Alonzo received treatment at an institution I recommended and my family owned, however, his condition failed to improve.
His bizarre affliction aroused both sympathy and curiosity on everyone’s part except for myself and my close relatives. Long before our trip, we had planned everything for revenge, for the two brothers were half brothers born to different mothers. In addition, the mother of the murdered brother remarried. She is my ancestor.
Alonzo passed away at the age of 33.
A few months before that day, I paid him a visit. He looked twice his age, all wrinkled, and white haired. I saw in his eyes he was still hearing that violin. I also was.
I often wonder if my ancestors had caused that earthquake.
981 word story