Dancing (A Prequel to “Too Late”)

Jane couldn’t sleep. The day had grown old and weary, and the Sun had long retreated below the distant horizon, yet tonight the sky was lit up by the relentless shower of lightning bolts. And the thunder – it was just unbearable.

Certain that she wouldn’t be getting any rest that night, Jane slipped out of her oaken four-poster bed, pulling on her long white gown as she made her way to the door. No one else is home tonight…I might as well play a little piano to drown out that terrible thunder for a bit, she thought. Her parents were away in the capital and, not for the first time (despite only having celebrated nine days), she had been left to look after the house alone for a day or two.

Jane made her way down the lavish, sweeping staircase to the ground floor, flicking on a kerosene lamp in the entrance hallway to drive out the inky blackness ever pervading the house twixt dusk and dawn. The large room was exuberantly furnished, boasting a seemingly endless row of ornate, larger-than-life family portraits, a thick, richly decorated Persian carpet bursting with colour and a spellbinding chandelier that dominated the eastern side of the hallway. In the north-eastern corner, hidden away in the shadow of a grandfather clock, Jane opened the little carved wooden doorway to the realms below. She descended down the rickety staircase, the steps creaking at her every footstep.

The piano room was hidden away in a dark corner of the mansion’s basement, cowering beneath the grand architectural monstrosity above it. Jane carefully stepped over the threshold of the room, tiptoeing to the lavish instrument before her. She revered it like an ancient family member, albeit one with a rather delicate temperament you didn’t want to disturb all too much.

Tentatively at first, she began to strike out a tune, the thunder above already muffled by the thick cellar walls and earthworks. Fingers now flowing across the keys, she drew forth the sound of her childhood, soon dancing, trancelike, in a sea of music, drifting in a world of her own. Eyes closed, Jane was oblivious to the terrible storm raging right above her.

The ominous clouds darkened further as the lightning bolts withdrew their deathly tentacles from the world below, fleeing the beautiful music emanating from the heavenly vaults far, far below.

The house was dancing too – a peculiar dance, frenzied yet graceful – as it flickered in the abyss of the night. The flames engulfed the lower levels, sweeping over the sea of carpet, flooding the rest of the mansion, one arm creeping down into the catacombs of the basement, hungry for more music, more, more…

It came upon her in the blink of an eye, a tiger’s tongue licking at the tailpiece of her long, white dress, and Jane became the music – she was dancing, flailing in vivid hysteria, clawing at the bone keyboard even as the room fell silent.

***

Soon after dawn, a black Rolls Royce drifted down the driveway, carrying a rather refined looking couple back to their suitably grand seat. The man unlocked the front door, entering the lavish hallway, and made his way up the stairs to bid his daughter good morning. But she wasn’t there. She wasn’t anywhere. He panicked, scrambling through the house, tripping over the thick Persian carpet, lost for words. The door to the piano room lay open, yet, again, no one was inside – what had happened to her?

He sat down on the stool, burying his head in his hands. His ears ringing from a sudden burning headache, he collapsed on the cold stone floor.

~ Jordan Strobach-Morris, 30.12.2015

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