Before the bidding starts proper, allow me to elucidate some of the more intriguing qualities of Lot 23. Popularly referred to as the ‘Devil’s Violin,’ it is an instrument of striking craftsmanship; note the rosewood body, the gold wound strings, the tuning pegs rumoured to be made of human bone… but do stop your jeering, gentlemen. This is a house of commerce, an institution! I am not some, some ‘victualler’ parading warm bodies on chicken skewers. Some class, please.

You’ll note, friends, in your handbooks, that this violin has something of a– ah, checkered past; has acquired something of a reputation, you understand, certain groundless rumours that it’s haunted. Built by Antonio Stradivari, it’s claimed that the great craftsman ‘passed on’ at the moment of its completion, hands still wrapped around its fingerboard. A tremendous number of thefts and double-crossings followed, too sordid to describe in pleasant company; but it kept cropping up again and again in the company of the titans of music. It was with this instrument Tartini composed his delightful ode in G minor; and for this, it’s claimed, Paganini parted ways with his soul. What’s more, it was just rediscovered on an ancient Indian burial ground in Georgia… but enough, friends. We can begin with the main point of our auction.

The opening bid is 5, now, 5… oh! The gentleman in the long black coat raises it to 6, now, 6… come fiends, this is a fine lot, an—7! To the man in the lab smock… 8, from the aristocrat with the long teeth… 8, now, eight… yes, I see the placard held high by an invisible hand; 9 it is… 9… 10! For the musician with red hair and shaved eyebrows… any higher, friends? Yes? Eleven to the gentleman in the long black coat (is that a tentacle I see poking out of your shirt, sir?)… 11, now, any higher? No? No?
SOLD!!! Lot 23 goes to the thing in the long black coat for eleven human souls…



Harman Burgess

Harman Burgess

Harman studies psychology. He has published around thirty short stories in various magazines and anthologies including in Flame Tree Press’ Newsletter, Etherea Magazine, and After Dinner Conversation. Also, he’s got a play in development with a Sydney based theatre company.