It's a little rough, but this is the short fiction I wrote at a friend's behest. I was given a picture (an old black and white photo from what seemed to be the late 19th / early 20th Century) of a man holding an accordian or "squeeze box". From there...
Folks ain't got much to do 'round these parts when the sun sinks down into that black water. Drinkin' mostly, I suppose. That always starts out fun and turns ugly as the night drags on. Some folks just get to actin' like fools and then some just get down right mean. Life on the bayou is hard for poor folk. Not much to look forward to but drink and screw and pick a fight. Of course, we got some damn good music though. Every now and then a man will show up at Freddy's and really wail. But every now and then, even the music can go bad. Not bad. No... It can go...wrong.
Leticia said his name was Samuel or Sammy or something like that. I don't think no one really knew his name though. He wasn't from the area--at least, no one had ever seen him before. Old Joe said he just showed up down by the river while all the men were fishing, soaking wet without any shoes and carrying a squeeze box (you might call it an accordian) and asking around if there was any place he could play some tunes and pass the hat. Old Joe's got a heart as big as outdoors but a brain the size of a pea, so he didn't see nothin' suspicious about the circumstances of this man's arrival. He just pointed out the dusty scratch of Beaubois Bayou road and told him to follow the sun til he got to town.
Freddy's is a mile past the church (or a mile outta God's reach). The man tipped his sopping wet hat, thanked Old Joe, and trudged barefoot up the bank, through the reeds, and disappeared into the leopard print shadows beneath the canopy of oaks flanking the old plantation road.
It weren't but that same night, after the men had tried without success to snag any fish, that we found ourselves at Freddy's listening to the stranger play a feverishly impossible tune on the old squeeze box. I can't quite explain why it sounded wrong because, on paper, it likely made a lot of sense. But that wasn't how it came out. It was too fast, too complex for one. It was like the man was playing it with four hands instead of two--maybe six. And while our heads could tell you it was just a song, our bodies seemed to think otherwise. There was a buzzing sensation that kinda shot through our skin like electricity and we spun on it like a pinwheel, nausea building within like a frothy, storm-tossed sea.
Yet none of us moved. We stood there, transfixed by his devilish, maniacal playing. Hypnotized.
Most of us were, anyway. After a bit, my migraine kicked in and, with each passing note, it got harder to focus on the demon music. I looked around to find everyone in Freddy's--and it was most everyone in town--swaying absently to the strangers tune, humming along. Then the man stood up without missing a note and moved forward into the crowd, which parted like the Red Sea. The stranger crossed the threshold, stepped out into the road, and headed back toward the river.
Behind him, trailed the entire contents of Freddy's, joined along the way by anyone else left in town. Down the road they went like rats into the gullet of Beauboi Road, still humming the demon song. Then wordlessly, with only the music as direction, Sammy or Samuel or whoever guided them off the path, down the bank, and to the waters edge. I watched in horror as he led them all like the Pied Piper of Hamlin into the crystaline blackness of the river and to their deaths. I screamed in vain, trying to break the man's spell. But any attempt to break this dark reverie fell silent against the ever-loudening music that snaked from his squeeze box like the tentacles of some ancient evil.
In a state of mental exhaustion, I collapsed there at the river's edge. When I woke up, it was nearly dawn. I ran into town and began banging on doors, hoping it was all a dream. But the nightmare persisted. There was no sound anywhere. Not a soul in sight. Even Leroy and Deleetha's infant couldn't be found. I realized in horror that she must have taken the child into the darkness with her.
As I stumbled from their home, I spotted a lone figure ambling down that country lane. Reverend Collins. He was clutching his large, black bible with a look of horrored confusion etched into an ashen face. He needn't have ask the questions lodged in his open mouth. It was clear: What happened? Where is everyone? Who did this? Was that man a mesmerist? Was this all some mass hallucination? Was it like those suicide cults you sometimes read about?
I'm sure he was going to be looking to that book for answers. Oh, but something told me he wouldn't find them in there. Something in my gut whispered that whoever--whatever--led the town to their doom was far older than that Bible Collins clutched so fiercely.
I can't help but remember a legend my own grandfather told me about the Pascagoula Indians in these parts who worshipped an angry god in the river that made them all drown themselves. He would say that if you went down to the river at night when all was still and listened very closely, you could still hear them Indians singing softly from deep within their muddy graves.
I suspect--and this is why I have never returned to find out--that if I went down to the river on a still night and listened closely, I would hear the awful, horrible truth: that my neighbors and friends had all joined the ghostly chorus that sings to some unnamed heathen god. And I bet if I listen even closer, I'd hear the feverish wheezing of an old squeeze box.