The Possessed Instrument

Submitted into Contest #38 in response to: Write a story about someone learning how to play an instrument. ... view prompt

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Ding dong. 

Luna Franz never failed to appreciate Amazon’s fast efforts, though today her package was a few days late. She smoothed out her shirt and rushed to the door, ready to give a good yelling. By the time she’d whipped the old door open, they were gone. 

Luna was left with a frown on her face and a large box placed on the foot of her porch. 

“Nana?” her granddaughter, Elizabeth, called. She came out shuffling from the garage, a small backpack and suitcase trailing behind her. 

“Lizzy!” Luna held her arms out so she could envelop her only grandchild in an embrace. 

Elizabeth dropped her bags and hugged Luna back. “It’s Liz, now,” she mumbled into her shoulder. 

“Yes, yes,” Luna excused, pulling back. “You’ve grown tall.”

Elizabeth laughed. “It’s only been a month, Nana.” 

Luna nodded, pointing behind her. “Help me, would you? It’s a bit heavy for me.” 

Elizabeth peeked behind Luna, noticing the large box, and sighed. “Nana, what did we say about ordering unnecessary packages?” 

“What did I say about carrying unnecessary luggage?” Luna asked, gesturing to the suitcase that was unneeded for the week-long visit. 

Elizabeth refrained from rolling her eyes and moved forward to help her grandmother. “What is it this time?” she inquired as they hefted the light box into the living room. 

“A theremint I think,” Luna replied, dropping the box to a resting position. 

“A theremin, you mean?” Elizabeth asked, shocked. “That’s the third instrument this month!” 

Luna vaguely remembered the now pretzel-shaped flute and badly dented trumpet. “I liked the trumpet,” Luna commented. “Besides, this is magical!” 

Elizabeth exhaled. “No, it’s not, Nana.” 

“Then how does it make music with no form of physical contact?” Luna countered, crossing her arms.

Elizabeth threw her arms in the air. “I don’t know! I just know it’s not magical.” She whirled around stormed into the kitchen, where Luna supposed she would be making delicious cookies as usual. 

Luna shook her head and proceeded to open the box. She knew it wasn’t magic. The few videos she’d watched clearly were fake. Editing, Elizabeth would call it. Luna smiled, she had named Elizabeth. Her reasoning had been, “She can have a number of nicknames! Eliza! Beth! Lizzy! Liza!” Liz was a new one.

Soon, Luna had made it into the box and was relieved to find the theremint already assembled. She lifted it out gingerly and vaguely remembered the tutorials. 

She worked for a bit, attempting to find a way to work the unique instrument. Maybe it really is magical. 

Taking a deep breath, Luna leaned forward… 

“EEK!” Luna screamed, jumping back. She had held her hand close to the metal pole, and the instrument had let out an impressive squeak. 

Elizabeth rushed in the moment she heard the scream, her apron covered in flour, and a phone held in one hand. “Nana, what--” Elizabeth examined the situation, and sighed, “I told you you couldn’t work it.” 

“No, no,” Luna realized. “It’s not magical.” 

Elizabeth let out a sigh of relief. “I told you, didn’t I? Now, come help me.” 

“No,” Luna protested. “It’s possessed!”

Elizabeth facepalmed a patch of flour now visible on her forehead. “Nana, why? Why the theremin?” 

“It’s called a theremin?” Luna asked, confused. 

“Yes,” Elizabeth exasperated. She lifted her phone up, her eyes widening. “The cookies will burn, Nana! Put the theremin away.” 

As Elizabeth left, Luna didn’t listen to her ‘request.’ In fact, she kept twiddling with the magic box. Her fingers hovered right above the pole, and the screeching sound resumed. “Definitely possessed,” Luna concluded. She remembered in the video, the woman had made different hand gestures with both hands. 

Luna copied this, pinching her two fingers on her right hand, and hovering above the pole with her left. The instrument actually played a soft tune, and Luna smiled in triumph. “Thank you ghost.” 

“What was that?!” Elizabeth called from the kitchen, her voice panicked. She exited with a plate of cookies, all cleaned up. 

Luna snatched the biggest one of the plate and began chomping away. “The theremin. I figured it out. You talk to the ghost, and if you’re nice, it’ll play a nice tune with the poles.” 

Elizabeth set the plate down and groaned, running a hand down her face. “Nana, those are called antennae.” 

“If so, what do they do? Send your words to the ghost?” 

“Nana,” Elizabeth exhaled, scrolling through her phone. “There is no ghost. The antennae change the pitch.” Elizabeth demonstrated by placing her hand at different lengths from the antennae. Then she showed Luna the webpage.

Luna huffed, “No. You can’t trust the world wide web and that is too logical to be true - you are not even touching it.” 

“Electromagnetic waves,” Elizabeth deadpanned simply, growing impatient with Luna. 

“Yes, yes,” Luna waved Elizabeth off. “You can surf in the waves next summer.” 

Elizabeth groaned, submitting to dragging out her laptop and flopping onto the couch. 

“Why don’t you come spend time with your nana, Lizzy?” Luna questioned, tapping the box. “You’re only here a week.” 

“And yet you do this sort of thing multiple times a week. I’m good,” Elizabeth replied, her fingers flying across the keyboard. 

Luna sighed, murmuring about incompetent teenagers. That was when Luna hit her elbow hard on the edge of the theremin. When she looked over, she noticed a metal loop. 

Curious, she tried out what Elizabeth said about moving your hand away and closer. Luna started very close to the loop, and slowly extended away. 

“AH!” Elizabeth shrieked, spilling cookie crumbs everywhere. “That sounded like a foghorn! Nana, what are you doing?” 

Luna grinned giddily. “I think I found the ghost’s voice level!” 

Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “You mean the volume.” 

Luna shooed her comment off once more. “Yes, yes,” she giggled. “But see, now you can hear it no matter what you do!” 

Luna moaned and slapped a pillow around her head. 


“Everybody gather around!” Luna exclaimed eagerly. She stood in front of the television with her theremin set in front of her, her hands ready. 

“Nana, it’s just me,” Elizabeth reminded her. 

Luna waved off her granddaughter again. “There’s nothing wrong with pretending, Lizzy! Where’s your sense of adventure?” 

“Back where this instrument doesn’t exist,” Elizabeth replied bluntly. 

Luna sighed, deciding to ignore Elizabeth’s comment. She loved Elizabeth and she was usually more eager than this to try new things, but Luna figured she was having a bad day. 

“Just listen to my performance,” Luna ordered. 

Elizabeth held her head in her hands, waiting for Luna to play out her tune. 

Luna started with a simple and soft tune, the volume never wavering, but her right hand moving in and out to the antenna. After that, she suddenly started a quick-paced vibrato, the volume slowly working its way up. 

Elizabeth cocked her head, actually enjoying Luna’s music. 

Luna continued with a low foghorn, her right hand moving in and out. Finally, in the end, it started with a soft hum and vibrato, following into a crescendo. Abruptly, Luna stopped her vibrato and continued the in and out movement. 

Elizabeth screeched and fell back when Luna made an abrupt unpleasing sound. 

Luna laughed, clearly having planned this. “Thank you!” she called, bowing elaborately. 

Elizabeth stood up and glared, but soon her face broke into a smile. “Nana, that was beautiful! Well, except for that last bit.” 

They both laughed, sharing cookies under the stars.

April 23, 2020 19:44

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1 comment

I really liked this! I, as a science geek, love the theremin and really appreciate that you used it’s amazingness in your story! There were only a few thing that I think would make this even better: 1) I like the idea of the grandmother and granddaughter bonding, but sometimes (yes, I know grandmas can be hip, but...) Luna seemed to young. She had a few old-timer lines which helped cement the age, but there were a few things that just didn’t sit right. Like playing the trumpet; it’s a very lung-heavy instrument that I just can’t see a gra...


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