Short Story
                                      The Final Symphony
                                                              By Courtney DuRoff


      “Good work today class. We’ll start our Rachmaninoff piece tomorrow.” Claire’s professor began
collecting piles of sheet music and dulled pencils into his briefcase. He exited from stage left and waved
his students good night.

      “You guys want to get dinner? Dining hall closes in thirty.” Ray called from the back grand piano. Her
four other classmates nodded and packed away their compositions into their backpacks.

      “Go without me. Beethoven wore me out.” They all collectively laughed as she referenced his grueling
9th Symphony they were working on for the upcoming concert. Their voices diminished until it was only
Claire left in the big auditorium. She sat down at Dr. Matthews white piano and ran her fingers over the
smooth keys. She beamed, it sure was magical. She looked around, peaked around the curtains and out
into the audience. It was empty.

      She began to play her favorite composition by Franz Liszt, La Campanella. The piece started slow
and soft, and then sped up and echoed through the concert hall. The sound rang out into the rafters, and
Claire closed her eyes. Fingers rapidly gliding across the keyboard, brows furrowed, and knees bouncing.
She escaped into a world that was hard to describe to someone who did not understand the power of
music. It felt like she was on a cloud; she was a state of nirvana. The last measures were fast and she
finished in a dramatic bang. When she ended, she was breathing heavily, almost sweating yet she was
smiling.

      In the distance, she heard applause. But only of a single clap. She thought she was alone– Claire was
mortified. She figured it was Dr. Matthews or one of her classmates who snuck back in as no other student
on campus had access to the auditorium. Blushing to herself, she stood up, and bowed into the bright
stage lights.

      “Thank you. Is that you, professor?” The clapping stopped. No response was given.

      “Uhhh...hello?” Claire squinted, but couldn't make out a figure in the audience. She gulped, this was
strange. She quickly shuffled over to her backpack and began shoving folders into it. All of a sudden, the
left stage lights switched off and a second later, the stage right lights were off. A single spotlight shined
bright on Claire. It beamed into her eyeballs, blinding her. She tried to grab her bag and find the back
door, but it followed her as she crawled around on the stage.

      “Knock it off, this isn’t funny!” she yelled out. The spotlight quickly switched off, a door slammed. It was
pitch black, Claire rustled into her backpack to find her phone. She grabbed hold of it and used the
screens brightness to see where she was going. It was completely silent, all you could hear was her
panting and sneakers squeaking across the floor. If this was Ray, she was going to kill him. This was not a
fun prank to pull. She groaned and knocked into piano benches while trying to find the door.

      She then ran into something hard and yelped. Claire didn’t remember there being so many obstacles
on stage. She brought the screen brightness in front her. She was met face to face to a hooded figure
dressed in all black with their two eyes rolled back into their head, blood seeping from his pupils.

      “Encore, Claire.” he snickered. She screamed and ran, but this figure caught her and didn’t let go. She
kicked and flailed; this towering body was too strong for her. He covered her mouth, tears spilled from her
eyes, and he carted her off into the silent darkness.

                                                                                      ***

      Dr. Matthews turned the key of the door and stepped into the university concert hall. He was excited for
a new day with his students, they would be learning his favorite Rachmaninoff composition. He stepped
onto the stage, but found piano benches toppled over and sheet music all over the floor. He was furious,
was it one of those fraternity hazing activities? He began cleaning up when he wandered over to his white
baby grand piano. As he approached, an unusual smell overcame him. He rounded the corner to find the
piano covered in blood and his prodigy student dead.
About Courtney DuRoff
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