Saturday Stories: Dance of the Dead

Photo: Egres73, Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a while since I posted a Saturday story. Here’s a little flash piece I wrote last week.

The longest night of the year started off cold and clear. As the stars came out, the entire village gathered in the square for the solstice celebration. Lanterns flickered all around the square, each one lit in memory of a loved one gone.

Claire wended her way through the crowd just in time to see her brother light the great bonfire. A cheer went up from the crowd. Musicians struck up a tune and the dancing began.

It was the dancing that drew the dead. At least, that’s what the elders said. Only on the winter solstice. Claire joined the others, stomping feet and turning circles. Her neighbour, Tom, caught her eye and smiled, but Claire hardly noticed as she looked around.

Where was Geoffrey? So lately dead, he should be one of the first to arrive. It was always that way. The ones who had been dead for longer took longer to return. More engaged in the afterlife. Eventually, most stopped coming altogether. But Geoffrey was only killed two months ago. Claire shuddered at the memory of the crushed body the other woodcutters carried home from the forest that day.

The circle of the dance brought Tom back around. “Good to see you, Claire.” They joined hands and spun. “Would you like to join me for a pie later?”

“Huh?” Claire had been craning her neck for a glimpse of Geoffrey. “Um…” The dance whirled them apart.

Where was Geoffrey? The dead were arriving in numbers now. Charlotte, who died last year in childbirth, was dancing with her husband Neil. The boy, Carter, who drowned during spring flooding, was holding his mother’s hand. Even Old Man Gardner was standing at the edge of the dance, clapping his hands and tapping a foot. His wife Henna, also of the dead, joined him with a smile and swept him into the dance.

So where was Geoffrey? Surely he’d arrived by now, if even Henna–three years dead– was here. Surely he was here and looking for her.

Twice more, Tom danced close enough to smile at Claire and ask his question. But Claire shook her head. “I’m waiting for Geoffrey.”

“Oh. I’ve seen him.” Tom looked like he was about to say something more, but then thought better of it. “Look, won’t you just go have a pie with me?”

Claire refused. It was the dancing that brought the dead. She had to keep dancing. For Geoffrey. She danced on. In the middle of the second dance, she noticed Tom, standing at the edge of the crowd, eating a pie alone.

Finally, well into the third song, when the dance was thronged with dead, she saw him–her Geoffrey!

Dancing with another girl.