Dancing with AbsinthStephanie Campbell / Horror / Thrillers & Crime
Dancing with Absinth
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This is a work of fiction. Any characters, names, incidents, or otherwise are the sole work of imagination. If a resemblance to a person should occur, living or dead, then it is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved. This work should not be reproduced or transmitted through any means without the permission of Stephanie Campbell.
The Art of Letting Go
Copyright Stephanie Campbell 2011
Dancing with Absinth
By Stephanie Campbell
The dark stage looked more haunted than Emilee Kensington could have ever imagined. Even though her friend, Jackson, sat at her side, she felt as if any breath might be her last. The darkness seeped into her pours and clogged her senses, and every noise, from the soft chiming of an ethereal clock hanging on the wall to the sound of a stereo turning on and off, had her on edge. But she was still here. Emilee was not a coward, after all. Spending a night drinking absinth on the "haunted" stage was a part of her dance academy initiation hazing.
She picked up the glowing green absinth inside of a goblet of silver—or likely copper, knowing Jackson—and took her first sip, choking on the burning liquid that tasted of fire. It wasn't hard to see why Jackson had imported the "real" alcohol all the way from Amsterdam. She had never tasted anything like it before.
"You like it?" he asked.
"It's alright." She shrugged. Secretly, she hated it.
Jackson leaned toward her, a flashlight in hand that barely chased away the gloom of the place. The light highlighted only his most eerie features—the curve of his jaw and the hollows underneath his midnight brown eyes. His black hair curled underneath his earlobes and a smirk covered his face. He, unlike her, did not appear to be haunted by the madness here.
"Do you want to hear the story about Madame Isabella again?" Jackson asked. "You've had a few actual sips now. You aren't faking it like before."
"Don't be ridiculous." The idea of hearing the story again caused her toes to curl.
"Madame Isabella was a great and beautiful dancer. They called her the best." Jackson exhaled and dramatically raised his hands, sending a ray of light from the flashlight upward. Like magic. She trembled. "One day she went to the stage all alone to practice for her lead role in Swan Lake, and she began to dance. She had heard rumors about a creature—a demon—that lived down on this very stage, but she ignored them. She did not believe in such things. While she danced, though, a stranger appeared, dressed in a leotard of all black with a face mask of silver covered in rust. The smell of metal clogged the air."
"She stopped and told the man to leave, but instead he began to dance for her. His dancing was impressive, more so than the likes of which Madame Isabella had ever seen. The man moved toward her and grabbed her by her waist, and he began to perform the role of Odette's prince perfectly. Isabella was so intrigued by her partner that she did not stop dancing. She danced and danced until her feet felt like fire, but she could not stop. She danced until her feet bled and pains shot through them. When she said that she had had enough, that she could take no more, she tried to stop. The man made her dance more."
"'Stop, stop,' Isabella cried. She began to get frightened. She yanked herself away from him, but he was back again in an instant, holding her close. The man said to her, 'Look upon my face and then I will allow you to stop dancing.' She, terrified, nodded and agreed. She reached up and removed his mask, allowing it to fall to the floor with a clatter, only there wasn't a face there at all. The man's profile was blank. A mannequin. It's one of the dolls that they use to store the leotards on. The mannequin grabbed her and said, from an unknown mouth, 'Dance with me.' When she shook her head again, the mannequin said, 'Then I shall help you become limber for your performance.' When Isabella tried to step away, he reached forward and snapped her bones at the joints one by one, starting with her frail ankles—"
"—and then her knee caps. Then her hip bones. All the meanwhile she screamed, 'Help me, somebody. Please.' And then he moved on to her shoulders, her elbows, her wrists, and then, as she was a limp doll in his arms, shivering in agony and close to death, he cupped her silky neck."
Emilee's eyes widened. "Jackson, knock it off."
"When he grasped her neck, he stared into her eyes for just a moment and then said, 'Now, you shall be just like me.'" Jackson smiled. "Then he snapped Madame Isabella's neck, and the next morning the company found her body lying inert on the floor."
"That is such a disgusting story," Emilee said, shivering. "What ghost book did you get it from?"
"Ghost book?" Jackson shrugged. "No such thing."
Emilee frowned and stared at him.
"Now, for the rest of the ceremony," Jackson said. "You are going to have to spend the rest of the night here on this stage. Alone."
Horror filled her. She knew spending the night down here was something that at least one first year had to do. In fact, one of the seniors had even wished her luck after her modern dance class was over, meaning it was a school-wide hazing. The logic that countless students—possibly hundreds—had spent nights down here unharmed did not ease her mind. She wasn't going to breathe all night.
"Please don't make me do this," she said, grasping onto Jackson's jeans.
"Now, now." Jackson patted her head and grinned. "I had to spend the night down here, too, and everything went fine. I'm still alive, and I saw no one."
"A bit of advice," Jackson said, picking up the glowing green bottle of alcohol with a fairy on front. "Drink the rest of it. Get smashed. You'll be out like a light and snoring before you know it."
Nodding but still trembling, Emilee picked up her goblet and inhaled the rest of her drink. It caused her to cough and sputter on the way down, but the warmth that filled her afterward made the pain of drinking liquid fire worth it. For the moment.