We’ve been sitting in this mulchy undergrowth for over an hour. It’s cold, wet, and dark. The woodland floor is soft and decaying, but still alive with the comings and goings of critters preparing to bed down for the next seven months. They snuffle around us but don’t come close, actively avoiding the giants that have invaded their home.
Above us, leaves that have clung stubbornly to their branches crackle and scratch, making it sound like the tree is shivering and bending. I look up and see what looks like a thousand grotesquely long, gnarled fingers standing in silhouette against the almost full Harvest Moon, letting myself imagine the tree leaning over to warm itself in our collective body heat.
Neither of us has uttered a word since we arrived, and that’s strange, given how loud we usually are. But then, is there really anything to say when you’re huddled in the undergrowth in the middle of the woods, minutes from midnight, straining to see the broken cemetery of a church that nature reclaimed long ago?
Both of us have our own reasons for being here. We have our opinions on how tonight will go. Belle’s is absolute belief that we’ll see what we’ve come to see, and mine is absolute certainty that all we’re going to get is rained on.
Well, as sceptical as I am, I’m open to the possibility that maybe – just maybe – I’m about to see something that will change the way I see everything else. That I’m about to learn that everything I’ve always thought to be nothing more than fancy is real.
“Do you hear that?”
Belle has a voice as soft as feathers, but her whisper seems brash in the silence. My teeth are chattering too hard for me to reply with words, but my uneasy shift is answer enough. Just like Belle, I hear nothing but the total absence of sound. The crispy leaves have stopped rustling, the animals in the brush have stopped snuffling. It’s like someone pressed pause on the night and the only things still moving in it are us.
My phone vibrates in my pocket. One minute to go until midnight.
A thick black cloud passes over the moon and the dark gets darker. An icy breeze rolls over the ground, thick and chilling. I’m not ready to say Belle is right and that supernatural shenanigans are afoot, but I will concede that this situation I’ve landed myself in is fucking creepy.
I open my mouth to say nothing is happening, let’s get back to the hotel and drink up a storm, but a sound stops me. It’s quiet, softer even than Belle’s voice, but there’s no mistaking it. It’s the sound of a harp string being plucked, and it stops after twelve notes.
“I don’t like this,” she whispers. “Let’s go, please.”
I mumble in assent, but before we have a chance to move things start to happen. The dissonant screech of an abused violin shatters the eerie silence and a bonfire flares to life.
We sit, as still as the grave, staring in disbelief, terror, shock, and awe at the creature that stands proudly on top of a crumbling stone mausoleum. What’s left of its skin glows amber in the light of the fire, its bare skull and exposed ribs glistening wet and bloody.
I watch its humerus moving in its socket as it saws away at the instrument in its hand, seemingly oblivious to its horrified, captivated audience. Why can’t I run? I want to. Want to put miles, continents, between me and this thing that should not be. I thought I was ready to learn that this was real, but I was wrong. I’m not ready at all.
The ground vibrates beneath my feet, the soil loosening. I look at Belle, seeing how pallid she is, how wide her gaze. She’s staring at the cemetery, shaking her head in denial as if trying to convince herself she isn’t seeing what her eyes are showing her. When those eyes widen further, I decide I don’t want to see. But my head turns on my neck and I look all the same.
The cemetery ground is churning, breaking up, spitting out bodies at a rate so fast I can barely keep track of how many. My nose picks up a scent. It takes me a few seconds to place it and when I finally figure out what it is, I gag. It’s the stench of mud-soaked rotting meat.
“Fuck this, I’m going.”
Oh, I sounded so brave just now! But I’m going nowhere because I can’t see a thing. The fire has vanished, and the moon still hasn’t come out from behind the cloud. Even it doesn’t want to bear witness to this unnatural event.
With a roar, the fire comes back. Belle’s gasp has me spinning on my heel, wanting to know what she’s seen.
In place of the skeletal musician, there’s a man. His pale hair flows in waves, framing a still gaunt but beautiful face that’s tilted toward his instrument. Eyes sparkling blue, lips twitching into the subtlest of amused smiles. Ruffles of white fabric tumble from his throat and wrists, the velvet of his burgundy jacket shimmers in the light of the flames.
Just as he is changed, the corpses his devilish music called forth from their graves have changed. They’re no longer putrid and rotting. Women with full breasts and soft bellies stand in a line, facing tall, dark-haired men with broad shoulders and muscled backs.
“What the fuck?” I mutter, leaning against Belle for support.
As the fiddler plays, the risen dead come together, and their dance begins. Slow, sweet and careful. Hair fans out, breasts sway, partners chop and change. Laughter drifts by on the frosty air and I find myself smiling.
Belle was right; the dance of the dead is more than just a legend, and it’s magical.
Part of me prays that our presence doesn’t disrupt this beautiful thing while another part wishes I could join in. I want to dance, to touch one of these creatures, to find out if their bodies are as warm as the glow of the fires makes them seem.
We watch for what feels like hours, stuffing our hands in our pockets so we don’t accidentally clap, stifling cries of delight and encouragement so as not to give ourselves away.
The dancing grows ever more frantic. My heart rate increases with every frenzied step, faintness tries to steal over me while I watch the living dead spin and twirl each other around. They get closer to one another, clinging together, making small groups and pairings.
“Wait, are they… oh my God, they are!”
Belle is right; they are. Their dance has turned into something altogether different.
Stunned isn’t a strong enough word for how I’m feeling. As clear as day, I see a cock appear briefly between the butt cheeks of a woman, and then it slips inside her. A moustachioed man drops to his knees to her left, taking someone else’s cock into his mouth. Bodies tumble to the ground, bend over headstones, wrap around each other, and they all start to fuck.
I doubt all these people knew each other before they died, but that doesn’t seem to matter to them. Age, race, colour, gender, status… none of it is important. No matter what they’d been in life, all were equal when dancing before Death.
One particular couple captures my attention.
A beautiful large woman, and an equally beautiful slender one. They’re the only two still dancing, but I can tell that’s about to change. The look they just exchanged… it was so powerful, so intense, and so intimate it was as though they didn’t know they were surrounded by dozens of people who were indulging in so many different sex acts it was dizzying. Nobody shares a look like that without it turning to sex.
And, just as I knew they would, they break away from the crowd, moving slightly closer to us. Belle puts her hand in my pocket, wrapping her fingers around mine. She’s probably looking up at me, searching for reassurance that she isn’t losing her mind, but I can’t look back at her.
I’m too entranced by the way the plump woman’s body moves while she rocks her pussy over her companion’s face. She lifts her breasts, stroking her cheek on the one on the left before taking the nipple into her mouth. I wonder if her belly is as soft as it looks, if her thighs are as squishy. God, I love the way the woman beneath her reaches up to knead all that flesh.
Some guy appears beside them and she abandons her breasts in favour of his cock. Kissing it, nuzzling, then sucking with drawn in cheeks and rolling eyes. He pulls her hair and slaps her, and I feel a twinge in my gut when I hear her gargling on a cock muffled laugh.
When he pushes her forward I can’t stop myself from groaning. She’s still riding her friend’s face, but now she’s getting fucked, too. This is one of my favourite things and I’d give anything to be her right now. Her moans are loud, unashamed, clear for all to hear. She’s enjoying it. Loving being filled with dick while an orgasm is sucked out of her clit. Her eyes roll each time he thrusts inside her, her tits swing, and then she screams.
One by one, the rest start to scream, thrashing around in the disturbed soil, clawing at crumbling stone. Cocks spurt over faces, cunts contract and splatter the ground with luminescent fluid.
My eyes follow that mesmerising woman around the cemetery. She dances for the fiddler, spreads her legs for one man, gets on her knees for another two. Her fingers seek out welcoming cunts, her tongue lavishes attention on neglected anuses. Life and soul of the party seems like a ridiculous label to pin to a reanimated corpse, but that’s what she is.
Just as she waltzes back to the base of the mausoleum, everything stops. Dozens of heads slowly turn in our direction and I see flickering images of skulls superimposed over rosy-cheeked faces. They stare at us, arms raising in synchronicity, index fingers straightening until every one of them is pointing at us.
The fiddler smiles, jerking his head in invitation. “Will you join us now?”
Belle stops me from staggering forward with a hand on my arm, and she addresses him. “This gathering is only for the dead,” she says.
Dragging his bow over the violin strings with a flourish, he bows. I see his radiant eyes peer at us through his lashes, shivering violently when he nods.
“Yes, I know it is. That’s the only reason you were able to see.”
What does that even mean? I look down and shock steals the power from my lungs, turning my horrified cry into a pathetic little mewl. Lying at my feet is me, and beside me lies Belle. Our lips are blue, our eyes staring unseeingly at the almost naked branches above us.
A blink, and then we’re standing hand-in-hand at the base of the mausoleum, naked and damp, but warm. I want to scream at the heavens, but I don’t. I can’t. The rhythm of slapping skin and frenzied music is making my newly stilled heart beat again, and I can’t stop myself from moving.
We laugh, moan, and fuck until we hear the crow of a rooster. Towering over us, the fiddler plays a slow, melancholy tune as our fellow dead lie down on top of their graves, sinking slowly until they’re swallowed by the soil.
Belle and I share one last kiss, and then the music stops.