I wrote this short story in 2009, before I even knew that flash fiction was a *thing.* It was initially based on a real dream that I had, then I listened to some Slayer the next day and the lyrics (to “Dead Skin Mask”) just clicked. I made some edits below and it’s actually pretty refreshing to see that while my style has evolved, it has stayed faithful, but that my writing has gotten tons better.
Jeff Hanneman, the guitarist from Slayer, died on May 2, and this is the best tribute I could think of.
Dance With the Dead
The boom boom boom of the trance music caught my ear. I was at the door, tentative and breathing heavy.
Taking the step up into the house, I realized I was being led into my grandparents’ house. The place had been turned into a rave, disco lighting and the stink of teenage sweat mixed with the sharp bite of uncertainty. The disco lights broadcast a tight staccato with the rhythm, blue and yellow pulsing to the beat.
The music roared with a static overtone and I winced. The bass alternated in a downbeat and a slightly higher pitched upbeat, with a rapid fire ts ts ts ts-ts ts ts ts in the background, with a trance electronica overlaid on that. The bass hurt my chest.
I struggled to make out the figures; several people had their arms up, profane undulations to the rhythmic orgasm, pounding away, pounding, pounding away and muting the voices.
I could see them talking, but I couldn’t hear them. As I looked around, all at the outskirts, firmly seated against the walls, were elderly people. One man had horn-rimmed glasses and a plain hat, and, from the looks of it, didn’t have his dentures in. He gave a curt, grotesque, brusque smile and I pressed on through the crowd.
They were all looking at me. Some smiling knowingly. Some with vapid, blank stares that betrayed nothing. But those eyes. I saw all their eyes at once. I became at one with the world in a boundless zen moment.
Passing through the dining room, the kitchen, and into the living room, I continued to stare around at the rave, wondering what the fuck was going on. I stepped down, my bare toes squishing into the soft carpeting, pausing to enjoy the feeling.
But something was bothering me. Not the rave in my grandparents’ house – that was actually pretty cool. But something about the people… they were all… all… I think they were all dead.
Dance with the dead in my dreams.
And a younger woman with no real face approached me, leaned into me, and yelled into my ear so I could hear her over that sultry groove tempting me, begging me to let my body absorb the beat. I knew I mustn’t give in. That I must listen.
Listen to the hallowed screams.
I looked up at her and nodded; her hand was cold as she led me up the stairs. The dark, narrow, creaking staircase. Into the darkness beyond, taking us to where we mustn’t go.
The dead have taken my soul.