“But then she heard her cell phone ring. She answered it, and her boyfriend yelled that the bagpipes were in her back seat!”
Doctor Terror looked up from his marshmallows, pulling them up from the fire. Burnt, as usual. “Professor Depravity, that story is stupid. It’s not scary at all.”
Depravity straightened his back, trying to find a comfortable position on the log. “Yeah, sure thing, nerd. As soon as you go to your tent, you’ll be crying to us about being chased by the entire wind section of an orchestra.”
Phil Mandragora, the Teaching Assistant for the Outerworld Reptile Department, scoffed into his hot dogs, holding them out over the fire. “I doubt anyone would be scared of that idiotic story. Intruments have never successfully killed a man. The venom of the wild pan flute is only paralytic, not lethal. The bagpipes are also herbivores, like the zither and harp. There’s no reason for one to attack a woman in her car, let alone for cheating in an online video game. It’s a preposterous story.”
Depravity looked back and forth between them, crossing his arms. “Fine. You guys don’t want to hear my stories, then you can all go to bed without any more food.” He reached down, picking up the rest of the hot dogs, marshmallows, and chamomile tea, bringing them all with him back into the small tent behind him. He pulled the zipper up, a radiant glow appearing around the fabric.
Terror sighed, rolling his eyes. “Baby. Well, I’ve got to look at some city schematics so I can figure out where to drop poison in the water supply. I’d better head on in and do that.”
Phil grabbed his arm. “Come on, man. We never get out like this any more. You guys promised you’d spend one weekend just goofing off, like we used to.”
Terror looked away from him before speaking. “Look, Phil, a doctorate in Terror is a constant job. For me to keep up my tenure, I have to be doing experiments and articles all the time. I can’t just drop my plans to turn air into fire whenever I want to. If I do, my funding gets cut, and I’m out on the street zapping hobos for change. It sucks, but that’s the real world. I just can’t do stuff like this any more.”
He marched into his tent, leaving Phil to sputter and stammer. He heard the sound of his zipper going up as well, a spray of foul-smelling gas pouring out from two canisters on either side of the tent. Phil contemplated going over and bothering one of them, but didn’t want his spine to melt while his intestines burst into flames.
He walked out into the woods, just listening to the insects and voracious carnivores chewing on human cartilage. He made his way toward a lake, tossing a few rocks in to see if they would skip. He felt a lot older than he had before.
Then, he caught the sound of a guitar lick on the wind. It was faint, an afterthought of hair-metal, but he was positive that he’d heard it. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, but he told himself it was just the result of being all alone on a spooky night. He was just hearing things.
Just the same, he started to head back. He walked for almost ten minutes, the sounds of oboes floating on the night air. He could swear that someone was tapping on a xylophone just beside his ears, but when he turned around, it was gone. He wondered how far back the camp could be. It couldn’t have been that far.
That’s when he first caught the sound, the wind rushing through the complex series of pipes attached to the tartan bag. It came in a rush, somewhere so close he could feel the notes creeping across his back. He started to run, too scared of the sound to control himself. The sounds of plucked bass strings and trumpets shrieked alongside him as he ran, a tuba playing notes so fast it seemed to be laughing at him.
He made his way to the camp, stumbling to a stop at the carnage he saw. Doctor Terror sat outside his tent, a flute driven through both of his ear canals. Depravity lay in the fire, the flames eating his clothes as a guitar tuned itself, its strings cutting deeper into his throat with each turn of the tuner posts.
He started to turn back, but then felt the sharp pipes cut into his stomach. A wet, Scottish sound started to ripple through his innards as they poured out, mingling with the bright red bag at his feet. His eyes fell upon the other instruments as they came forward to feed, a horrifying mass of string and brass.