Monday, January 28, 2013


Helen Turner was fond of the exquisite parties hosted by her cousin, Hammond. They were of a more classical vein, barring the sagging belt-lines and overturned hats of other contemporary ventures in exchange for suave suits and blooming dresses. Outside of school formals and Summer family reunions, it was Helen's only opportunity to dress like a princess and relish in the gawks of greener gentleman.

It was an odd relief to be admired while modestly attired. The attendees of Hammond's ball, despite largely being college boys stuffed into a two bedroom house, whooped with their eyes and their hands noticeably removed from their pockets. Their attention, without the prompting of a bursting bra, made her feel like a goddess as she pranced across the converted dining room, twirling from one partner to the next. They all commended her beauty, and while most were nice, there were few that were truly to her liking.

Of course she knew that, like her, many of these boys were wearing masks. Their suits likely alien to skin probably more accustomed to t-shirts, plaid shorts, or, if they were to have their way of it, nothing at all. The practiced lines of their haikus borrowed from popular rap, the spins of their dance typically more gyrating. She imagined them all as they'd be in a normal party, and knew there would be no romance here that night.

Then she spun into his strong arms. He was a tall boy with blond hair that swirled over his eyes and split the light into rainbows. Blue eyes shimmered over a sure smile. Long, delicate fingers took her hands firmly in his and they fell away from the trading edges to the more intimate middle floor. He gazed down at her whimsically, with a peace in his eyes as though he were away in a far off day dream, but at the same time staring down at her with all the intensity of a solar inferno. And in the heat of that fire she melted.

The grandfather clock clicked the hours away, twirling its mustache well past twelve, then beyond one, two, and just slightly beyond three. The longer half reached down, grabbing out for the six greedily. Helen didn't care. She would be pleased to spend the night in the arms of this man with the golden hair. Already she was considering him the answer to her problems, and imagined them dashing off through some enchanted forest to a floral garden and a high castle. He looked rich enough to own such a place.

The mustache shaved on six, then twirled by thrice. Something odd happened to the familiar tick of the second hand. It grew heavy, and loud, and not unlike a horse's clopping hooves over pavement. The clatter grew louder as the minute ticked by, more like a wild stampede than a steady steed. Helen looked to her dancer, to ask if he heard it too, and saw grinning down at her a repulsive, purple-skinned beast.

Its long face ended in a wicked goatee, which licked like fire over her forehead. The passionate whimsy of blue eyes now red glinted amusement. A smile split the pointed face with skillfully honed teeth. Horns stabbed through the skin of its fore, and when Helen looked down the source of the clatter became clear: its toes were now two, cloven on hooves.

Helen's scream shattered the tranquil air, followed closely by the twisted cackle of the man-beast. Its voice, as though it swallowed a harmonica, ripped through the room and brought blood to many ears. The stronger men charged through the threat, reaching for the demon with clenched fists. It breezed away, massacred the large second-floor window, and fell out of sight into the darkness.

Hammond led the charge down the stairs and to the night, but the man was gone before he'd barged out the door. The men looked all over the yard, but found no trace of the man. No suit, no shoes, not even a hair. There was nothing except for a steaming pair of hoof prints stamped deep into the drive. Melted clumps of pavement piled between the cloves, and all around the ground was cracked, scorched and scarred.

They stormed into the room, demanding answers. Hammond sat his cousin down and ordered for her water. After some minutes she looked at him with wrinkled eyes and said: “I--.” Her pale lips quivered. “I danced—with the Devil!”

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