He took his first steps down into the cellar, a dank smell entering his nostrils and a sigh escaping his mouth.
He did not like dank. Dank was the smell of forgotten items, rotting items, worthless items. He liked polish, upstairs smelled like polish. Perhaps he should go back.
His eyes adjusted to the darkness, the outline of something forming in front of him.
Unusual for sure, he considered as he approached, "Not mint, perhaps, but handsome."
The machine stood upright against the wall, no more than two feet square and constructed of polished walnut. Four sturdy legs curved to the floor, engraved with almost mechanical patterns, and run with gold leaf. Tucked under the main body were two small doors, which opened outwards to reveal a stack of discs in waxy paper.
The top of the machine was glass, engraved beautifully in hand carved script "the Eidograph - Barnefeld and Sons."
A small key sat in what appeared to be a lock at the front of the machine.
He took the lid with the tip of his finger, lifting it slowly. The mechanism was smooth, and gave a satisfying click as it locked into place, at a slight angle. Inside, the signs of wear were more obvious. A felt covering was marked with what appeared to be water damage, from the time in the cellar no doubt.
"Easily replaced", he muttered under his breath. Small repairs came with the territory.
Most of the mechanical workings were of brass metal and had oxidised quite badly. But the turntable moved smoothly and without any sign of wear.
"Let's see how she sounds," he announced to an empty room.
Reaching down under the main body of the machine he pulled the first disc from the top of the pile. There were no markings on the waxy paper that held it, but the disc inside bore a numeric inscription "#27".
"Mozart, perhaps?", he inquired of himself, as he placed the disc on the turntable.
The lever marked "Play/Record" was already set to "Play", and he left that in place. He gave the crank-handle a few gentle turns, aware that over-winding could damage the mechanism within.
He noticed a key, which he had assumed to lock the cabinet lid, was not connected to any obvious latch.
Reaching forward and took the small key between his fingers and turned it clockwise half a turn.
A click, rather louder and deeper than one might have expected for such a small thing, emanated from somewhere inside the device. Then, movement. Slowly, lethargically, the turntable dragged itself up to speed.
The man leant forward and lifted the arm, up and over in one smooth motion, before placing the stylus down gingerly on the surface of the disc, resting in the groove.
He stepped back, and waited for music.
The disc was not Mozart.
He first noticed the lights. While the disc spun, a series of small lights had begun to form across the surface, originating from where the stylus sat. The yellow sparks lifted from the groove, and danced across the surface of the disc before fizzling into nothing.
That was quite an unusual record player.
He was still puzzling at what he was seeing as the stylus slid free of the lead-in grooves and into the recording. The yellow sparks that had danced off the needle were replaced at once with thicker forms, shades of blue. They leapt from the needle, into the air and circled the room, circled him. No longer fizzling away, the shapes fed, merged and combined to take form around him.
Reaching out to touch it, it flowed through his fingers, pushing and spraying. The smell of salt.
At that moment, he was knocked from his feet.
Upstairs the lights flickered.
They flickered again.
Then went out.
"Damn fuses," cursed Mrs Barnefeld under her breath. The electrics in the house had been installed in the 1920s. With all the new appliances losing a fuse here or there had become a annoyingly regular occurrence.
The fuses were located in a cupboard along the hallway from the cellar. She placed the mixing bowl on the side and walked over to the cellar door, still ajar.
"It's the fuse! It'll be back on it a minute!" she called into the darkness.
There was no response, but Mrs Barnefeld hadn't taken the time to notice.
Heading straight to the fuse cupboard she flipped the panel open. The main breaker had blown, that much was clear. But the source of the problem became obvious in the separate, smaller breaker that had blown in tandem. The cellar.
"What has he done now?", she muttered, now more irritated than concerned.
There was no sound from below as she started down the stairs, no sound at all. She stopped halfway.
At first a gasp.
The contents of the cellar were strewn all around, as though a hurricane had ripped through beneath, yet leaving the rest of the house untouched. Papers were strewn all over, boxes up-ended, furniture on its side - and occasionally its top, others smashed into pieces.
In the entire room it seemed that only the Eidograph was sitting where it ought to be.
Then a scream.
The man lay, bundled up, in the middle of the floor, broken, twisted and quite dead.