Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

The Music Box By Imogen Rowe

In all the time I had known him, Dr Jacob Belford had been a remarkable man. My father had

been a close friend of his, and when I had the misfortune to be left orphaned at the age of nine he

had become my guardian and my closest friend. The man responsible for my parent’s deaths had

been hanged for murder, but Dr Belford insisted he was not of sound mind; the man's peaceful past

gave no inclination to homicide.

I was summoned, late on evening to his office by means of a rather frantic telephone call

from his secretary, Mr Lemming. I was at home, alone when the call came; it was beyond social

hours, some minutes past midnight. I answered, and was met with Lemming’s semi-coherent


“Gone mad, miss! The doctor! Quite raving! The music box!”

The mention of the music box sent a thrill of fear through me. The box had been the only

thing my parent’s murderer had carried on his person; Belford had kept it on his desk ever since as a

token of my father. I hastened to his office through dormant streets and languid pools of yellow

streetlight, through the rain that fell apprehensively down from the black skies.

As I entered Lemming hurried straight to me, taking both my hands in his trembling fingers.

“Oh miss,” he stammered. “Be careful! I went in not half an hour ago – he came at me with a

knife! The box, miss, the music box!”

I abandoned him then, that poor, flustered little man flitting around the antechamber, too

loyal to my uncle to leave him and far too afraid to enter within.

How many times had I been in this room as I grew up, sitting on the velvet cushion by the

window; how often had I sat, reading his books in the winged armchair in the corner? But now it was

all wrong. The lamp over the desk was dim and menacing; the cushion and drapes moth-eaten and

worn. The chair in the corner was slashed to pieces, its faded cover hanging from the wooden frame,

a gilded letter knife impaled in its back.

The music box stood open on the old man’s desk. Never in the ten years it had sat there had

it ever been opened, nor ever uttered a sound. Now, the centrepiece rotated slowly and a hazy,

modal tune clinked from it, filling the whole room.

Beneath the melody I could hear the macaronic murmurings of the doctor. He crouched like

a golem behind the ruined chair, his clothes skewed and torn. The music infected my ears.

I spoke, but he let out an animal snarl. My vision began to blur.

“I know you not!” He hissed, his voice hoarse. His fingers fidgeted, his eyes darted. I found

myself moving forwards. The music filled the room.

I went over to the chair and pulled the letter knife from its back, clutching it tightly in my hand.

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