The last time I saw him, I was turning off the record player and taking out the vinyl so I could put it back in its sleeve, when he jumped up and yelled.
"Don't stop the music!" he screamed as he grabbed my wrist and gave me a scolding look. It was very out of character for such a gentle man who never yelled in even the most stressful situations.
I pulled up his blanket to tuck him in on the couch and put the record in its sleeve.
That night, I received a phone call from his neighbor, Ms. Lenning. Apparently, she had gotten really nervous and felt like she should check on my grandfather, which ultimately ended in her finding my him in a pool of blood in the kitchen. He had slashes all across his body and was found with a knife tightly gripped in his hand and his eyes were wide open. I stayed on the line silently while my heart broke.
This was very shocking news for me, but he had been fighting a battle with dementia for quite some time at that point and I figured something would happen to him sooner or later, whether it be him falling in the shower or forgetting to eat. He was much to proud to go to a nursing home and he had been in a good mental state until very recently.
The funeral service was beautiful, and fitting for him. It was an open casket, I couldn't even tell that the horrific incident had happened. Instead of crying, my family got together and laughed in memory of him, watching old home videos and scoping through pictures. Even in his younger days he was the same music-loving goof that I had always known. My mother recalled some memories where they had walked through the park on hot summer days or times where he had gotten lost using a GPS. It hurt so bad to know he was gone and so soon after I had seen him last; I hadn't even said goodbye.
We met up again weeks later to discuss the will. My grandfather wasn't a very rich man, so we didn't think there'd be much to divvy up.
"Brenda, my loving daughter, to you I leave my home." My mother teared up and smiled, surely thinking of something he had said to her long ago.
"To Lisa, my sister, you have my car. Take care of it, it's vintage you know." She laughed and then suddenly burst into tears. I assumed it had been an inside joke between the two of them.
Then we reached the very last line.
"And to Dylan, my gracious, brave grandson, my record collection and my phonograph so you can always remember the time we shared."
After reading that I teared up and my heart broke all over again. Even in death he was the best grandfather I could ever ask for.
Later that evening, after everyone had retrieved what they were given, we all left to return to our respective homes. I set up the phonograph on my kitchen table, I had no place to put it yet, and placed a shining black record on the table and placed the needle down. Miles Davis was playing all of my memories out loud through my entire apartment. Days and days of ice cream and hot homemade dinners, and nights of hide-and-seek under blankets.
Then the record skipped.
"You. You. You." It repeated over and over.
I adjusted the needle and placed it back down; it resumed. A couple of songs later I turned it off and went to bed.
The next day I went to work, walked my dog, and visited my mom to check on her. After my busy day I came home to use my old record player again. This time, I put in one of the swing albums he had; it had no official sleeve, just paper to cover both sides. I placed the needle down, and instantly it began to screech. It was so loud that I became dizzy, it stung my ear drums and my eyes started to water. I figured something was wrong with the vinyl so I gave it a rest for the night.
At about 4 am I heard a faint noise coming from the kitchen. I figured I had left the TV on before bed and just forgot to turn it off. I shrugged and wiped away the tiredness from my eyes, heading toward the noise. As soon as I got into the kitchen, I realized the TV was off, but the record player was on. It was skipping and a record that I had never seen was playing; it was repeating the same word over and over.
"Are. Are. Are. Are."
Slightly uncomfortable I took the needle off the record and went back to bed. After a quick Google search on vinyl care, I came to the realization that it couldn't be the record, it was virtually untouched and in great condition. Maybe it was the phonograph, I thought to myself.
The next day, I went to Jamie's Music, which is a music store near my apartment that does repairs on vintage instruments and music players. I told a balding man behind the counter the problems I had been having with the phonograph and he looked at it intently.
"It looks vintage," he said typing the serial number into his computer. "Ah! Here it is. The Tumbaldt and Jurrie Model #4. There were only three in circulation. It's worth a fortune."
"Can you fix what's wrong with it?" I asked him hoping more than anything.
"The parts are custom and virtually impossible to find, how about I take it off your hands?" He licked his chapped lips, and I declined.
I promptly left; I figured if it were really broken, I could just leave it alone and keep it as a token of remembrance of my younger days, and maybe one day, I'd give it to my grandson.
Later that night, I woke up in a cold sweat. I figured it had been a nightmare, but I couldn't remember what I had seen. Then I heard it again. The loud screeching noise shook my bedroom door and didn't seem to be anywhere near stopping. My door was clicking back and forth on its hinges. I ran out into the kitchen and stared at the table. I didn't remember plugging in the record player, but after almost having my inheritance ripped-off, I was a little distracted.
I raised the needle and turned off the machine. As I was walking away I heard a quiet sound coming from the record player.
"Dead. Dead. Dead."
My heart jumped out of my chest as soon as I made out the words being repeated. The record player wasn't even on, and yet it was threatening me. I moved the record player into the spare room and closed the door tight. I went into the living room and fell asleep to a talk show with two men talking about the importance of the bald eagle.
Suddenly, the screen contorted into static and I could hear a quiet voice. I moved closer to the screen. It sounded like an old man crying.
"Don't stop the record."
I heard it so very faintly, so I moved even closer.
The crying turned to wailing.
"DON'T STOP THE RECORD!"
I jumped off of my couch and hit the floor screaming. I realized it was morning now, I must've fallen asleep. I spent the morning thinking about what had happened. Was it all a nightmare? It would add up, except for the fact that I woke up on the couch. I didn't have time to worry for too long, so I didn't. My nightmare had told me not to stop the record, so I just put on the nearest vinyl and put it on repeat, just for safe measure.
At work my co-workers noted on how tired I looked, and I did feel noticeably more exhausted than I usually would. I walked into the bathroom to check my face and see if I really looked as terrible as they said.
I looked at my face and realized that I looked much thinner, my cheek bones were more pronounced and my eyes were complimented with dark swirls of purple lining my eyelids. I looked so tired. After the bathroom, I feigned being nauseous to my boss so I could go home and sleep, maybe I just needed a couple of hours to rest.
As I headed up to my apartment, I heard the screech again. This time, it was so ridiculously loud I was forced to my knees, screaming on the top of lungs. I couldn't even hear my own yelling. Yet, I saw everyone else in my complex walking around casually. Couldn't they hear it? I pushed through and made it to my door. The sound was so intense I started shaking in pain. I hurled my door open. The record player was sitting on the table again and not in the guest room where I had left it.
I had to stop it, I had to. I ripped out the record and smashed it.
In my relief, I went to my bed room. As I was walking, I saw the shadow of the phonograph, but it was different than I had seen before. Out of the tube, there was a twisted hand. I turned around and looked there was a clawed and nasty arm poking out from the tube.
"You shouldn't have... stopped... the record..." The voice sounded strained and very clear.
I ran to my spare room and took out my wooden baseball bat that I had bought a few summers ago and ran back.
The arm was fully out and the crown of a head was poking out. A horn was visible from where I was standing. I smashed down as hard as I could on the player. Laughing followed each swing. Not a single visible mark was made. I looked at the record on the player and realized it had no label.
I thought back to the other screeching occurrences. Both had been with the same record, could there be a connection?
I looked under the table and saw "Bitches Brew" and tossed it in the player, I slammed down the needle and turned the volume up all the way. Heavy sax and powerful drums over powered the room and calmed me suddenly. Everything felt like it was in the right place all the sudden, and I wasn't afraid.
The music cut suddenly.
"I love you, Dylan." I heard through the record player.
"I love you too, Grandpa," I said back through tears.
I heard my grandfather using all his strength to pull whatever was crawling out if that record player back in.
The music started back right where it had left off.
The demon disappeared, shriveling and becoming a cloud of black dust sucked into the tube like a pile of dirt in a small tornado.
Days later, I told my family and my friends about the incident, and of course they shrugged it off as a delusion from lack of sleep, so I just stopped talking about it. Eventually, I started feeling better and my face went back to how it had been. Everything just slipped back into place perfectly.
I moved on, found a girl, got married, and had some kids. Now my children are fully grown adults and have children of their own.
I've had this phonograph for forty years now and I've never stopped the music since.
But I'm starting to get older, and it's getting harder to change the record...
Written by Ye Ole Fire Chief