Soloist [Monstrous May 25: Angels]

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They said an angel played at Stardrop every Thursday night. Lucius’s curiosity had been piqued, despite his assumption it was all exaggeration. He took a seat at the bar, separated from the stage by a valley of vine-patterned carpet and four-top tables. He nursed a whiskey ginger as he watched patrons drink and laugh until the lights grew dim.

The pianist strolled onto the stage to polite applause, wearing a dark suit and oil-sheen shoes. He kept his eyes down as he took his seat at the bench; he had no sheet music standing in the rack as he placed his hands on the keys.

The song began slow—an aria, Lucius guessed, hardly appropriate for a lounge. Yet the audience was silent and captivated and even Lucius couldn’t deny the pianist’s skill as the layered melody trickled in. He sipped his drink and held himself as still as a harbored ship as the music lapped at his ears.

The song shifted along with the pianist’s posture and Lucius caught glimmers of gold and silver at his back. A glare off the stage lights, perhaps, or some elaborate stitching in the man’s suit. Lucius removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes, blinking furiously to clear his vision. But the glimmer was unmistakably there, like light trying to sneak through slitted curtains.

He returned the following Thursday, taking a table closer to the stage. At this distance, he could make out the pianist’s face—the gorgeous curve of his dimpled cheeks, eyes that shone like sunset across a lake, and the loose bun of silvery hair resting at his nape. His suit was red, detailed with gold flourish on the sleeves that twinkled with each movement of his hands, his fingers caressing the keys as if they were made flesh.

That night Lucius dreamed of standing behind a shirtless man at a white-sand piano. He placed his hands on the pianist’s shoulder blades as something clawed through his skin. Black wings unfurled from the pianist’s back, enrobing Lucius in darkness as the song waned on a shaky breath.