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The Orpheus Box
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-212-7
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Supernatural/Horror
eBook Length: 409 Pages
Published: January 2005
OUT OF PRINT

From inside the flap

 "The Orpheus Box" is the story of Thomas Edison’s etheragraph, an invention created for communicating with the dead.

"...It is possible to construct an apparatus which will be so delicate that if there are personalities in another existence or sphere who wish to get in touch with us in this existence or sphere, this apparatus will at least give them a better opportunity to express themselves... ."

Thomas A. Edison
Scientific American, Oct. 30, 1920



The Orpheus Box (Excerpt)


~One~

This is now.

The night was as clear as the first night of creation, unmarred by any cloud or haze. The gibbous moon shone down brilliantly, only an arm’s length away. The stars shuddered with barely repressed feeling.

Bob, the older man, lifted the small, thin cylinder of metal from a velvet-lined wooden box that contained perhaps a dozen or so just like it. The cylinder was feather-light, wrapped in cotton batting and then encased in a yellowed cardboard sleeve.

The sleeve was unadorned, save for three letters on its side in faded, crabbed handwriting.

T. A. E.

Bob knocked the cylinder gently onto the palm of his hand, freeing it from the sleeve, then unwound the strip of cloth.

The cylinder surface was tarnished with age. Barely visible was a thin, hairlike groove that wound its way around the middle.

Both men found it hard to fathom that this small, fragile thing held what it did; a recording from the past...and beyond.

Bob was careful not to touch this as he passed it to Tim.

Tim’s hands shook as he accepted it, held it up to the moonlight to get a better look.

That something so plain, so unadorned and functional-looking could contain something so profound seemed unthinkable...yet somehow perfectly fitting.

Sitting atop a scrolled iron tripod before Tim was a device the size of a milk crate. Its mahogany cabinet was dark and richly burnished with age.

The whole apparatus looked like a two-headed antique Victrola.

Two huge, elaborate sound horns, each pointing away from the other, were attached to the device. Between them, within the wooden cabinet, was a spring-mounted armature with a tiny needle affixed to it, whose tip rested just an inch or so from a mounted cylinder.

This cylinder’s diameter was tapered, with one end just a bit smaller than the looped strip of metal Tim held.

Carefully, he lifted the armature away, fitted the record he held onto the mounted cylinder. Metal slid over metal until the two cylinders seated themselves.

Replacing the armature with a pronounced metallic clack!, he turned and looked back at Bob, who stood a few feet from the machine with his arms crossed in front of him.

The looks they traded betrayed nothing, gave nothing to the other.

Tim took the small crank that jutted from the front of the cabinet in his hand, wound it several times.

There was an instant whirring and ticking from the unknown guts inside the machine, as if many gears were being turned to life again after a long slumber.

The cylinder spun just fast enough for the thin grooves of the record to be lost in the blur.

Tim reached in, touched the armature to the spinning cylinder.

There was a brief, loud burst of static from the left horn.

The sound settled down into a low background growl, punctuated by a repeating click! as something within the machine cycled in time with the cylinder.

For a moment, there was no more, and the two men looked at each other again in profound disappointment.

It doesn?t work.

Just then, though, the sound pulsing from the machine changed subtly, refined itself into something that was not random noise.

Both men took a step nearer the sounding horn.

Something low and guttural gathered itself within the horn, rumbled out of the machine.

The air trembled beneath it.

As the sound increased in volume, the men blanched, stepped away.

The hairs on the back of Tim’s neck stood on end; goose bumps rippled across his exposed skin.

The night felt more cold.

It was laughter, and it rolled deep and maniacal before the mechanism wound down, and the machine clacked to a halt.

The disturbing sound of that laughter echoed, a ghost of a ghost, until it disappeared into the night.

Bob reached down into the box, pulled out another cylinder.

This one was in an unmarked sleeve, and the cylinder’s surface was unblemished.

He held it up to Tim.

"Do you want to try now?" he asked gently.

Tim took the virgin cylinder, rolled it in his hand, lifted his head to the indifferent stars.

"Yes," he sighed, and his tone was beaten and sorrowful.

"Let’s try."